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The First Treatise 

Ode I. . 

The Second Treatise 

Ode II. . 

The Third Treatise 

Ode III. 

The Fourth Treatise 

Analytical Note . 

Ode IV. 

Ode V. . 

Ode VI. 

Ode VII. 

Ode VIII. 

Ode IX. 

Ode X. . 

Ode XI. 

Ode XII. 

Ode XIII. 

Ode XIV. 

The Mountain Ode 









Appendix I. — The Date of the Con-vi-vio, and 
its relation to the De Vulgari 
Eloqueiitia and the De Mon- 
orchia ... 420 

„ II. — On Dante's 'Second Love,' and 

the relation of the Con-vi-vio 
to the Vita Nuo'va and the 
' ' Commtdia . . .428 

„ III. — The Astronomy of the Cotfvi-vio 436 

Partial Tabulation of the Second Main 

Division of the Fourth Treatise . 443 

Fuller Tabulation or II., a, |3 in the Fourth 

Treatise ....... 444 

Editorial Note ...... 445 

List of Scholastic Terms explained in thk 

Notes ....... 447 




[Man naturally desires knowledge, but because of 
inward and outward impediments may seldom 
attain to it. The privileged few who so attain, 
urged by natural benevolence, desire to give of 
their precious possession to others ; and so likewise 
the author who, sitting at their feet, has gathered 
some fragments of wisdom, has in charity im- 
parted thereof to others, in his odes ; and now 
perceiving that those odes (and parts of the Vita 
Nuova) are scarce intelligible without a literal 
and allegorical commentary, he invites those 
who are too busy or too slothful to study for 
themselves (but not those who are too vicious or 
too incompetent) to come and share of his intel- 
lectual feast.] 

As saith the Philosopher in the beginning of the The 
First Philosophy, ' All men by nature desire to natural 
know ' ; the reason whereof may be, that each J°^^ °^ 
thing, impelled by its own natural foresight, \^a^^ 
inclines to its own perfection ; wherefore, in- 
asmuch as knowledge is the distinguishing 
perfection of our soul, wherein consists our 
distinguishing [[lo^ blessedness, all of us are 
naturally subject to the longing for it. Yet of 
this most noble perfection many are bereft, for 
divers causes ; which, inside of the man and 


How outside of him, keep him from acquiring the 
baffled tidbit of knowledge. 

Inside of the man there may be two defects 
and impediments ; the one from the side of the 
body, the other from the side of the soul. 
From the side of the body is it, when the parts 
[20J are unduly disposed, so that it can receive 
nought ; as with the deaf and the dumb, and 
their likes. From the side of the soul is it 
when vice hath such supremacy in her that she 
giveth herself to pursuing vicious delights, 
wherein she is deluded to such a point that 
for their sake she holds all things cheap. 

Outside of the man, likewise, two causes may 
be detected, one of which brings about compul- 
sion, [30] the other indolence. The former is 
that family and civic care which rightly engages to 
itself the greater number of men, so that they may 
not abide in leisure of speculation. The latter 
is the defect of the place where the person is 
born and nurtured, which may chance to be not 
only void of all provision for study, but remote 
from studious folk. 

The two first of these causes, to wit the 
! C40] first from the inner side and the first from 
the outer side, are not to be blamed, but to be 
excused, and deserve to be pardoned. The 
two others (though one of them more than the 
other) deserve to be blamed and abominated. 
Manifestly then may he perceive who rightly 
considers, that few be left who may reach to 
that habit which is desired by all ; and well- 
nigh beyond number are they which be hindered 
and which {^$0'] live all their lives famished for 
this universal food. Oh blessed those few who 


sit at the table where the bread of angels is The 
consumed, and wretched they who share the "read of 
food of sheep ! But inasmuch as every man is 
naturally friendly to every man, and every friend 
is grieved by the defect of his friend, they who 
are fed at so lofty a table are not without com- 
passion towards [[603 those whom they see 
browsing round on grass and acorns in the pas- 
ture of brutes ; and inasmuch as compassion is 
the mother of benefaction, they who know ever 
proffer freely of their good wealth to those poor 
indeed, and are as a living spring at whose waters 
the natural thirst above spoken of is refreshed. 
And_I, therefore^ who sit not at the blessed '^'^ r^vA"--' 
table, but, having fled the pasture of the common V^ix^xs-t-'T 
herd, gather, at the feet [^703 of them who sit 
at meat, of that which falls from them ; and 
who, by reason of the sweetness which I ex- 
perience in that which little by little I gather, 
recognise the wretched life of those whom I have 
left behind me ; moved to compassion, though 
not forgetting myself, have reserved somewhat for 
the wretched ; which somewhat, already some 
time agone, I have displayed to their eyes, and 
thereby have made them the more eager. ■ Aiajai 
Wher efore, desiring now to make provision for ^ 
r ther^ [80J I purpose to make a general banquet v... najiK 
oTtnat which I have already displayed to them ^ ij^ 
and of the bread which is needful for suchlike "*»- 
viand, without which they might not eat it at ^ 
this banquet; such bread, to wit, as is worthy of ^ '*Y^ 1 
the viand which I well understand to have been 'ni^IvV'*^ 
offered them in vain. 

And therefore I would not have any take his 
seat who is ill-disposed as to his organs, inas- 


The much as he has neither tooth nor tongue nor 

invita- [go^ palate ; nor any addicted to vice, inasmuch 

" as his stomach is full of poisonous and contrary 

humours, so that it would not retain my viands. 

But let come whosoever, because of family and 

civil care, hath been kept in human hunger, and 

let him seat himself at the same table with others 

impeded in like manner. And at their feet let all 

those place themselves who have been excluded 

by their sloth, for they are not worthy to sit 

more high. And let these and those [lOo] 

take my viand, together with the bread which 

will enable them both to taste and to digest it. 

I The viands of this banquet will be served in 

uTa^" H. fourteen fashions, that is to say fourteen odes, 
^ ' treating as well of love as of virtue, which 

, i, without the present bread had the shadow of 

'n\f A'J^ certain obscurity, so that to many their beauty 

« *. ^^^ more in favour than their excellence. But 

3 this bread, to wit the present exposition, will be 

the light which j^iioj shall makeapparent every 
hue of their significance. And if in the present 
work (which is entitled, and which I wish to 
be, the Banquet) the handling be more virile 
than in the Ne'zv Life, I do not intend thereby 
to throw a slight in any respect upon the 
latter, but rather to strengthen that by this ; 
seeing that it conforms to reason that that 
should be fervid and impassioned, this temperate 
and virile. For a different thing is comely to 
say and to do at [i 20]] one age than at another ; 
wherefore certain ways are suitable and laudable 
at one age which are foul and blameworthy at 
another, as will be shown on its own account 
further on, in the fourth treatise of this book. 


And in that I spoke before entrance on the Conviyio 
prime of manhood, and in this when I had ^^ ^^** 
already passed the same. And inasmuch as my 
true purport was other than the aforesaid odes 
outwardly [1303 display, I intend to set them 
forth by allegorical exposition after having dis- 
cussed the literal story. So that the one account 
and the other will supply a relish to those who 
are invited to this feast ; whom I pray, one and 
all, that if the banquet be not so magnificent as 
consorts with the proclamation thereof, they 
shall impute every defect not to my will but to 
my power ; because what my will herein aims 
at is a full and ^140] hearty liberality. ... 

Prefixed to each chapter is a summary of its contents, 
the object of which is partly to serve as an index in 
helping the reader to find any passages he may want, 
partly to set the details of the work in their true propor- 
tion and perspective, and partly to indicate the actual 
meaning that underlies the sometimes fantastic imagery 
of the author. These requirements, one and all, vary so 
greatly in different portions of the Cormi-vio that it would 
be unwise to adopt any rigid system in these summaries, 
and the reader must therefore look for no formal con- 
sistency in them. 

A system of marginal notes has been adopted which it 
is hoped will give the student material help in grasping 
the articulation of the work as he reads it, and in finding 
passages he may wish to recover subsequently. See the 
'Analytical Note' on pp. 383 ff. 

The notes appended to each chapter will for the most 
part have no other object than (within the narrow limits 
natural in a popular edition) to make the text intelligible by 
explaining what Dante is talking about and what he says. 
The many fascinating questions as to his methods of 
work and sources of information which the study of the 
Cotfv'fvio raises will seldom be touched upon for their own 
sake. And in like manner, references to the Comedy, or 
to Dante's other works, are only given when a comparison 


of two or more passages is likely to throw essential light 
upon one or other of them, and even in such cases the 
student will often be left to his own resources. The 
mere occurrence of the same name or the same idea in 
some other work of Dante's will not as a rule be noticed. 
*^* TAe numbers inserted in the text in square brackets, 
used for reference in the notes and elsenvhere, are those oj the 
lines in Dr. Maoris Oxford Dante, 

The Title. The proper title of this work is 11 Convrvio 
(Latin, con-vi-viuni), ^and so it was called in the four 
earliest editions. But in 1826 it was edited by Trevulzio 
under the title of // Corfvito (Latin, con-victus'), which it 
has retained ever since. Dr. Witte (^Essays on Dante,^ 
pp. 368-373) has shown that the manuscript authority is 
overwhelmingly in favour of Conz/i-vio, and perhaps an 
attempt should be made to restore it, though it may 
be doubted whether the erroneous form is not now too 
familiarly established to be dislodged, 

1. The Philosophers Aristotle. 

2. The First Philosophy = T\\t Metaphysics. 

4-11. For the reason Dante assigns for our love of 
knowledge compare Paradiso, I. 103 fF. , together with 
the arguments and notes in the ' Temple Classics ' Dante. 
Distinguishing perfection, in the original, ultima per- 
fe-zione. For this use of ultimo, compare De Monorchia, 
I. 3 : 30-65, If, for example, we divide beings into 
corporeal and incorporeal, corporeal beings into animate 
and inanimate, animate corporeal beings into those that 
can feel and those that cannot, sensitive animals into 
rational and irrational, then the qualification 'rational' 
is the ' ultimate ' or ' last ' distinction. The differentia 
of man, therefore, being the exercise of reason, is the 
'conclusive,' 'differentiating,' ' specific ' or ' distinguish- 
ing' excellence or perfection of man, 

II, Subject. Compare Pwr^afor/o, XVI. 79-8 1, and «o?e. 

15. Habit, This is a technical word, with the full 
significance of which the reader will become gradually 
familiar. It means tht possession oi s.n acquired capacity, 
as distinct from the exercise of it. A man who can 

1 Translated by Lawrence and Wicksteed. Duckworth & Co., 


read Latin has the 'habit' of Latin, a man who can 
write has the ' habit' of writing. The acquisition of this 
capacity is itself the actualisation of a potentiality which 
was dormant until trained, but it is itself only a potenti- 
ality with reference to the act of writing. The acquired 
' habit ' or power is therefore sometimes called the ' first 
actualising ' of the potentiality, the exercise of that 
acquired capacity being the second or complete actualising 
thereof. Compare II. 14 : 26, note (p. izi). 

27-39. The claims of family and civic life are re- 
cognised as laying a man under the necessity of giving 
the greater part of his available energy to his practical 
business. Compare Ecclesiasticus, xxxvii, 24-34, and 
also ConTW/o, I. 1 1 : 40-46. Whereas the absence of help 
and companionship in study only furnishes an excuse to the 
mental indolence it begets. Provision for study. The 
Italian is studio, the regular word for a university or 
organised institution for the higher education. 

55, 56. Dante regards love of self, love of others and 
love of God as natural to man. Compare the notes on 
the classification of sins at the end of the Inferno and 
Purgatorio volumes of the ' Temple Classics.' Convivio, 
III. I : 34-36; IV. 4 : 1-44. Purgatorio, XVII. 106- 
III. Paradise, XXVI. 16-36, and many other passages. 

74, 75. * Not forgetting mysef,' compare I. 13 : 

76, fVhich sometvhat. This is an obvious reference to 
the odes, and we may perhaps infer that the 14 odes on 
which the Con-vi-vio was to comment already formed a 
recognised collection. There can be little doubt as to 
the order in which they were to stand. After the three 
odes actually dealt with by Dante in this work, the 
other eleven followed in the order in which they are 
given on pp. 388-416 of this volume. The 15th ode 
' Amor, dacche conwen pur ch'io mi doglia' (XI. in Moore's 
edition), was probably written subsequently and was not 
included in the scheme of the Convi'vio. What has 
become of the ode referred to in the De Vulgari Elo- 
quentia,!!. II : 22, beginning Trag'^cwi ^<;//fl mente amor la 
stiva,' remains a mystery, 

Mr Edmund Gardner supplies me with the following 
note on the order of Dante's Canzoni or Odes : — 

' The majority of the existing MSS. of Dante's Canzoni 


give these 15 odes as a single and complete work, in a 

definite and constant order, frequently with a rubric 

prefixed to each, giving the number and subject of each 

poem. The order is the same as that adopted here, 

but with one notable difference — the canzone of the 

" atpro far/are " (cost nel mio parlor •voglio esser aspro) 

stands not 6th, but 1st, The earliest known MS. of this 

type belongs to quite the latter part of the 14th century. 

-iQ The few MSS. of the canzoni that can with certainty be 

\ assigned to an earlier date than this are seldom complete, 

. \^ do not present these poems as a whole or collection, and 

'^ each MS. has a different order. But in one of the 

.^ earliest and most authoritative of them there is evidence 

, of an original arrangement of the canzoni in which this 

canzone of the aspro parlare stood 6th, immediately after 

the five poems of philosophic love. If we take the 

arrangement given us by the MSS. just mentioned, but 

transfer this canzone to this 6th place, the whole collection 

falls at once into an order which is precisely that required 

by the indications given in the Con-vi-vio itself as to the 

subjects to be treated in three of the unwritten books.' 

Treatise VII. {Ode VI.) is referred to in IV. 26 : 
66 f., and probably in III. 10 : 41 ; treatise XIV. {Ode 
XIII.) in I. 12 : 87 f., II. I : 35 f., IV. 27 : 100 ff. ; 
treatise XV. {Ode XIV.) in I. 8 : 128-132, III. 15: 

86, 87. / noell understand, etc. See note on I. 2 : 1 1 1- 

126. Prime of manhood, l^a ItaWan, gioventute. Dante 
defines it in IV. 24 ; 22-29 ^* extending from the twenty- 
fifth to the forty-fifth year. The bearing of this passage 
on the dates of the Vita Nuo-va and the Convi-v'to is dis- 
cussed in the Appendix, p. 420. 

123, 124. See chapters 23-28 of the fourth treatise. 

105, 106. That their beauty should be felt without their 
meaning was bad ; but perhaps not so bad as that their 
sense should be understood without their beauty. Com- 
pare 1.7 : 88-91 ; also the ode of the second treatise, line 
31, and the commentary in II. 12 : 21-27, S2-67. 

127-132. Compare I, 2 : 120-123, and note. 



[ ( I. ) The author must apologise (a) for speaking of 
himself, and (d) for speaking darkly, {a) How, 
in speaking of any man, we either praise or 
blame him, and why a man's friends (of whom 
he himself is closest) should not be rebuked nor 
praised in public save for good cause. But as 
there are occasions when we may rebuke or laud 
others to their face, so there are occasions on 
which we may speak of ourselves, and amongst 
them are (a) self-defence from infamous charges, 
and (/3) the opportunity of doing great service to 
others, both of which apply to the author's case ; 
for his explanations will clear him of the charge 
of unrestrained passion suggested by the odes, 
and will enable him to explain the principles of 
allegorical poetry.] 

At the beginning of every well-ordered banquet Cleansing 
the servants are wont to take the bread that is set the breaa 
out and cleanse it from every blemish. Where- I. 
fore I, who in this present writing am taking 
their place, purpose at the outset to cleanse this 
exposition, which counts for the bread in my 
repast, from two blenushes. The one is, that for a, b. 
anyone to speak of himself seems \_i-0~\ un- 
justifiable, and the other, that for an expounder 
himself to discourse too profoundly seems un- 
reasonable ; and this appearance of what is 
unjustifiable and unreasonable the knife of my 
judgment cleanses away in the fashion that 

Rhetoricians forbid a man to speak of a. 
himself, except on needful occasion. And 
from this a man is prohibited, because it is 
impossible to speak of any without the speaker 


On self- either praising or blaming him [^203 of whom 
^""^h?^" he speaks. And there is a want of urbanity in 
either of these kinds of discourse finding a place on 
a man's own proper lips. And to solve a doubt 
which rises here, I say that it is worse to blame 
than to praise, though neither the one nor the 
other should be done. The reason is, that what 
is directly blameworthy is fouler than what is 
incidentally so. 

To dispraise one's self is directly blameworthy, 
because a man should tell his friend of ^30]] a 
fault in secret, and there is no closer friend to a 
man than himself; wherefore it is in the chamber 
of his own thoughts that he should take himself 
to task and bewail his faults, not openly. Again, 
for lacking the power or the knowledge to con- 
duct himself rightly a man for the most part is 
not blamed ; but for lacking the will he always 
is, for it is by willing and not willing that our 
badness and goodness is judged. And so he 
who blames [^403 himself, by showing that he 
knows his fault, exposes his lack of goodness. 
And, therefore, a man must refrain, on its own 
account, from speaking in blame of himself. 

Self-praise is to be avoided as evil by im- 
plication, inasmuch as such praise cannot be 
given without its turning to yet greater blame. 
It is praise on the surface of the words, it is 
Uame if we search into their entrails ; for words 
'are produced to demonstrate what [^503 is not 
known. Wherefore, whosoever praises himself 
shows that he does not believe himself to be well 
thought of, which will not happen unless he has 
an evil conscience, which in his self-praise is 
revealed, and when revealed is blamed. 


And further, self-praise and self-blame are to On the 
be shunned for one common reason, as the bear- illusion 
ing of fajse ^witness,; for there is no man who is ^^ 
a true and just measurer of himself, so does our 
kindness [603 to ourselves deceive us. Whence 
it happens that every one hath in his judgment 
the measures of the unjust trader who sells with 
one and buys with another ; and each orte takes 
stock of his evil-doing with a large measure and 
takes stock of his good with a little one, so that 
the number and quantity and weight of the good 
seems to him greater than if it were assayed 
with a just measure, and that of the evil less. 
Wherefore, when speaking of himself in praise or 
the contrary, either he speaks [70] falsely with 
respect to the thing of which he speaks, or he 
speaks falsely with respect to his own belief; 
and the one and the other is falsity. And this 
is why (inasmuch as assenting to an opinion 
is a way of professing it) he is guilty of 
discourtesy who praises or blarhes another to his 
face ; because he who is thus estimated can 
neither assent nor protest without falling into 
the error of praising or blaming himself. Save, 
be it understood, in the way of due rebuke, 
which cannot be without [80] blame of the 
fault which is to be corrected ; and save in the 
way of due honouring and magnifying, which 
cannot come about without mention made of the 
virtuous deeds or of the dignities virtuously 

But, returning to the main purport, I say, as 
indicated above, that speaking of himself is per- 
mitted on needful occasions ; and amongst other 
needful [90] occasions two are most manifest. 


On what The one is when it is impossible without speak- 

occasiona jj,g q£ himself to quash great infamy and peril ; 

sneak <^ ^^'^ ^^^^ '* ^^ allowed by reason that taking the 

himself least evil path of two is in a way taking a good 

(J o_ one. And this necessity moved Boethius to 

speak of himself, so that under cover of consola- 

Ciuptioif^'' ^ion he might ward off the perpetual infamy of 
his exile, showing that it [[lOo]] was unjust; 

AcJ'ffy £ since no other arose to ward it off. The other 

i.i)''-.p>\ p^ J8 ^hen by a man discoursing of himself the 
highest advantage, in the way of instruction, 
follows therefrom to others ; and this reason 
moved Augustine, in the Confessions, to speak of 
himself; for by the progress of his life, which 
t was from bad to good, and from good to better, 

ifhCV^ and from better to best, he gave example and 
instruction which could not have been received 

'^^'" otherwise on such [no] sure testimony. 

Wherefore, if the one and the other of these 
occasions excuses me, the bread of my leavening 
is purged from its first blemishes. I am moved 
by the fear of infamy, and T am moved by the 
desire to give instruction which in very truth no 

If*?'. other can give. I fear the infamy of having 

pursued so great a passion as he who reads the 
above-named odes conceives to have had ^^20] 
dominion over me. Which infamy is entirely 
quenched by this present discourse concerning 
myself, which shows that not passion but virtue 
was the moving cause. I purpose also to reveaT 
the true meaning of the said odes, which none 
may perceive unless I relate it, because it is 
hidden under figure of allegory. And this will 
not only give fair delight to hear, but subtle 
instruction, both in discoursing after this fashion 



and in [^130]] understanding after this fashion The 
the writings of others. meaning 

^ of the 


16. Necessaiia cagione. Compare Purgator'io, XXX. 
55, 62, 63. 

96. Boeth'tui (c. 475-525 A.D.) a scholar and states- 
man under Theodoric. His studies were principally 
philosophical and scientific, and he translated many of 
Aristotle's logical works. See note on II. 14 : 105. 
He was associated with the most eminent Christian 
scholars of the day, professed Christianity, and wrote two 
theological tracts, one on the doctrine of the Trinity and 
the other on the two natures and one person of Christ. 
His interest in these questions was philosophical rather 
than religious, and he shows small knowledge either of . 

the Scriptures or of other Christian writings. When Q#v^"44\\»l 
condemned to death by Theodoric, on the charge of {.X/C^ ' »''' 
treasonable practices, he wrote his celebrated Consolation 
of Philosophy, which is in effect a book of lofty Pagan 
religion and philosophy, from which it is evident that the 
author's spiritual life had been fed from Pagan and not 
Christian sources. The work, however, became a great 
favourite in Christian circles, and was one of the most 
popular books in the Middle Ages, Christian readers 
probably finding unconscious support in the fact that it 
supplemented the specifically Christian writings on their 
weak side, by attempting to show that, apart from any 
consideration of future rewards and punishments, and 
apart from any guidance furnished by revealed truth, the 
good man, judged merely by the results in this life and 
by the candns'Bf feasbh, had made a better and happier 
choice than th e wicked man. It is probable, however, 
' that oTKef"readers besides~Dante (compare Paradiso, X. 
124-126) read into the text of Boethius a touch of 
' other worldliness' that is not really there. One early 
commentator, however, noted that it contained * certain 
things contrary to the Catholic faith.' N.B. — The note 
in the 'Temple Classics' Paradiso on Canto X. 124-129 
(up to and including the 4th ed.) must be corrected by 
this note. 

104. j4ugust:ne (354-430 A.D.). Augustine more than 
any one theologian, perhaps more than all of them to- 


gether, must be regarded as the fountain head of the 
theology of the Western Church. His Confessions carry 
the story of his life up to his conversion and baptism in 
his thirty-third year. In Book X. 3, 4 he explains how 
he hopes that his self-revelation may be justified by its 
effect upon others. 

111-130. It is impossible to think that Dante really 
believed that any conceivable interpretation or misinterpre- 
tation of the ode that stands at the head of the second 
treatise could have brought 'infamy' upon him. But if 
we look at Ode VI. (that would have stood at the head 
of the seventh treatise) we shall very well understand the 
grounds of Dante's uneasiness, and why he wished to 
dissociate himself from the moral implications of his 
poetic record. See Appendix, p. 430 fF. 

127-130. Compare II. i : 34-36. 


\{b) A commentary so dark as itself to need a com- 
mentary seems futile ; but the difficulty of the 
present work has a deliberate purpose, for which 
the author would to God there had been no 
cause ; for it is founded on his wanderings as an 
exile, and the contempt which his forlorn appear- 
ance has everywhere brought upon him ; inas- 
much as (a) fame magnifies but (/3) familiar 
presence depreciates a man's qualities. (a) 
■^Men magnify report, good or evil, partly from 
emotional sympathy with the subject (which is 
innocent), and partly from self-importance (which 
is culpable).] 

On Worthy of much blame is the thing which, 

obscure ^gjjjg appointed to remove some special defect, 

taries itself induces that same ; as if one should be 

b. appointed to part a strife, and before he had 


parted it had set another on foot. And now The 
that my bread has been purged on one side, it author s 
behoves me to purge it on the other, that I may haViich- 
escape this latter blame ; for my present writing, ment 
which may be called a kind of j^io^ commentary, 
while commissioned to remove the defect of the 
aforesaid odes, may perhaps in certain places 
be a little difficult itself. Which difficulty is 
here designed to avoid a greater defect, and not 
in ignorance. Oh that it had pleased the dis- 
poser of the universe that the occasion of my 
excuse had never been ! For then neither 
would others have sinned against me, nor should 
I have unjustly suffered penalty, the penalty [^203 
I mean of exile and of poverty. Since it was 
the pleasure of the citizens of the most beauteous 
and the most famous daughter of Rome, Flor- 
ence, to cast me forth from her most sweet bosom 
(wherein I was born, and nurtured until the 
culmination of my life, wherein with their good 
leave I long with all my heart to repose my 
wearied mind and end the time which is granted 
me), through well-nigh all the regions whereto 
this tongue extends [30], a wanderer, almost a 
beggar, have I paced, revealing, against my will, 
the wound of fortune^ which is often wont to be 
unjustly impu^'d" to him who is wounded. 
Verily have I been a ship without sail and with- 
out helm, drifted upon divers ports and straits 
and shores by the dry wind that grievous poverty 
exhales. And I have seemed cheap in the eyes 
of many who perchance had conceived of me in 
other guise by some certain fame ; [^403 in the 
sight of whom not only has my person been 
cheapened, but every work of mine, already 


On the accomplished or yet to do, has become of lower 
dilation price. 

The reason why this comes to pass (not only 
"» ^' in me but in all) it is my pleasure here briefly 
to touch uponj and first, why a man's reputa- 
tion dilates 'things more than truth demands ; 
and then, why, more than truth demands, his 
o. presence makes them shrink. Good report, 
begotten at the beginning [503 in the mind of a 
friend by a good action, is first brought to birth 
by this mind ; for the mind of an enemy, even 
though it receive the seed, doth not conceive. 
This mind which first gives it birth, further to 
adorn its present and also for love of the friend 
who receives it, does not restrain itself within 
the limits of the truth, but passes beyond them. 
And when it passes beyond them in order to 
adorn its utterances, it speaks against conscience ; 
when it is the illusion [60'] of love that makes 
it pass beyond them, it does not speak against it. 
The second mind, which receives it thus, is not 
contented to abide by the dilating of the first 
mind, but sets about to adorn its own report (as 
being its own proper effect in the matter), and 
so, both for the sake of so adorning it, and also 
by means of the illusion which it receives from 
the love begotten in it, it makes the dilation 
more ample than it was when it came to it ; and 
this in concord and in discord with conscience, 
as before. And the like doth [^703 the third 
receiving mind, and the fourth ; and so to infinity 
it dilates. And in like manner, reversing the 
aforesaid causes, we may see the reason why 
infamy is magnified in like fashion. Wherefore 
Virgil saith in the fourth of the Mneid * that 


fame lives by moving, and grows by going.' On the 
Clearly then may who so will perceive that the dilation 
image begotten by fame alone [[80] is ever more »^™c 
ample, whatsoever it may be, than the imagined 
thing in its true state. 

II, 12. For the occasional difficulty of this comment, 
compare IV. 21 149 ff. 

24, 25. ^Uf to the apex of my life.' That is till he was 
thirty-five. Compare IV. 23 : 65-1 10, and /n/^mo, I. i. 
The indication is not precise, since Dante was in his 37th 
year when banished. 

25-28. ConvpAre Paradise, XXV. 1-9, and Dante's first 
Eclogue, 42-44. 

30-33. Compare the Epistle to Can Grande, lines 600, 
601 ; and Paradise, XVII. 52-60, in which latter 
passage, as here, Dante complains that the infamy of an 
outrage usually cleaves to the outraged rather than to the 

50-60. The only way in which it seems possible to ex- 
tract a satisfactory sense for this passage is to take the 
'present' as made not to the person who receives the 
good report, but to the person whom the good report con- 
cerns, for so only can the 'illusion of love' be regarded 
as honest and disinterested, and the parallel between the 
first and the second 'dilation' be maintained. The 
receiving mind conceives the good opinion and 'presents ' 
it (though not directly) to its father. 



[(/3) But a man's familiar presence lowers our concep- 
tion of him (i. ) because most of us. with childish 
inconsequence, when we see that a man's outward 
form does not correspond to the image we had 
made of it, at once suppose that our idea of his 
significance was equally at fault; (ii.) because, 
when we see a man, he strikes us as not so very 
different from ourselves ; and we become envious 
of his reputation, as a saint or sinner, which 
we think we might be able to rival ; and (iii.) 
familiar presence reveals some weakness or 
blemish which throws a shadow on the lustre of 
a man's greatness, or reveals some amiable 
quality which detracts from his reputation as a 
villain. Wherefore^ since the author is familiarly 
known to almost all the Italians, he feels it in- 
cumbent upon him, by way of counterpoise, to 
maintain a certain loftiness and severity of style 
in his work. Hence its difficulty.] 

On the The reason having now been shewn why fame 

contempt dilates the good and the evil beyond their true 

^"^^^ magnitude, it remains in this chapter to shew 

/ the reasons which reveal to us why a man's 

' presence contracts them in the other direction ; 

and when these have been shewn we shall easily 

advance to our main purpose, which concerns 

the above-mentioned excuse. I say, then, that 

for three causes presence makes a person count for 

i. ii. iii. less than his real worth. The first [lo] of which 

is childishness, I do not mean of age but of 

mind ; the second is envy ; and these two exist 

in the judge. The third is the alloy of humanity, 

and this is in the person judged. 

i. The first can be briefly discoursed of thus : 

The greater part of men live after sense and not 


after reason, like children ; and such [203 On light- 
know not things save only on their outer surface, "ess of 
and their excellence, which has reference to 
their due end, they do not see, because they 
have the eyes of their reason shut, which pene- 
trate to the perception of that end. Whence 
they quickly perceive every thing that they can 
perceive at all, and judge according to their 
jvision. And because they form a certain 
opinion on the strength of a man's fame, by 
hearsay, wherefrom in the man's presence the 
[[30] imperfect judgment, which judges not after 
reason but after sense alone, is at variance, they 
hold all that they have heard before to be a lie, 
and despise the person whom before they prized. 
Wherefore with such as these (and almost every- 
one is such) a man's presence makes the one 
and the other quality shrink. Such as these are 
quickly set a-longing and are quickly satisfied ; 
they are often rejoiced and often saddened with 
brief delights and glooms ; and they quickly 
become (3403 friends and quickly enemies. 
They do all things like children, without use 
of reason. 

The second may be understood by these con- ii. 
siderations : Likeness, in the vicious, is the cause 
of envy, and envy is the cause of hostile judg- 
ment, because it suffers not reason to plead on 
behalf of the object of envy ; and the power of 
judgment is then like to the judge who listens 
only to one side. Wherefore, when such as 
these see the famous [50]] person, they are 
straightway envious, because they look upon his 
members and upon his faculties, which are like 
their own, and they fear, because of the excel- 


The lence of such a one, to be the less prized. And 
Biloy these not only pass a hostile judgment under 
^^-V" the influence of passion, but, by defaming, cause 
others also to pass a hostile judgment. Where- 
fore with them presence makes the good and 
the ill in every one presented to them shrink ; 
and I say ' the ill ' because many, taking 
delight in []6o]] ill deeds, envy ill-doers, 
iii. The third is the alloy of humanity, which has 
its source in him who is judged, and works not 
save by some familiarity and intercourse. To 
make which clear be it known that man is 
blemished in many directions, and as Augustine 
saith ' no man is without blemish.' One while 
the man is blemished by some passion, which 
^703, may be, he cannot resist; another while 
he is blemished by some distorted member ; 
and another by some stroke of fortune ; or he 
is blemished by the infamy of his parents or of 
someone nigh of kin to him. Which things are 
not borne by fame ; but by the man's presence, 
and by his intercourse he reveals them ; and 
these blemishes throw some shadow over the 
brightness of his excellence so as to make it 
seem less clear and [80] less worthy. And 
this is why every prophet is less honoured in 
■ -, his own country; this is why a man of excel- 
|g(ti\\*<t/*'' Jence should grant his presence to few and his 
:j^a-^^\j(K^.<i ^jntimacy to fewer, that his name may have 
»\\vv.Si4»L^ acceptance and not be despised. And this third 
r^mSi^Y^ cause may operate in the case of evil as well as 
good if each element in the argument concern- 
ing it be turned the opposite way. Wherefore 
it is [[90]] clearly seen that, because of the alloy 
from which no man is free, presence contracts 


the good and the ill in every man further than The 
truth wills. author's 

Wherefore, because, as said above, 1 have 71^ ^^' 
exposed myself to nearly all the Italians, and 
therefore have perchance cheapened myself more 
than the truth wills, not only to them whom 
my reputation has reached, but to others also, 
whereby all that [1003 I have done has doubt- 
less been more lightly esteemed together with 
myself, it behoves me to give something of 
weight to the present work by a loftier style, 
that it may seem a thing of more authority. 
And let this excuse for the severity of my 
comment suffice. 

16-41. Comparel. 11 : 14-70 ; and IV. ij : 151-167. 
43. Comparel. 11 : 112-117. 

82-84. Compare II. i : 49-51; and Villani's asser- 
tion that Dante himself was reserved. 



[(II.) Having apologised for certain qualities of his 
work, the author proceeds to excuse its texture, 
which is Italian and not Latin. This is (a) to 
avoid a harsh inversion ; (b) to give scope to the 
zeal of his generosity ; [c) to gratify his love of 
his native language, (a) A commentary should 
be subservient to its text and should therefore be 
(a) self subordinating ; (^) sympathetic in its 
insight and range ; (7) flexible to the demands of 
the text. And (a) it were harsh and unnatural 
for Latin to subordinate itself to Italian, because 
(i.) the dignity of its fixed vocabulary and forms ; 
(ii. ) its power of adequately handling every 
subject, and (iii. ) the beauty of its elaborated 
structure, all make it the superior of the 
flucttiating, limited naive Italian.] 

An Now that this bread has been cleansed of the 

apology accidental blemishes it remains to apologise for 

nacular ^ substantial one, to wit, that it is vernacular 

comment ^"^^ "ot Latin, which by similitude may be 

called oaten instead of wheaten. And in brief 

II. a, h,c. the apology consists in three considerations 

which moved me to choose this rather than the 

other. The first springs from the desire to 

avoid undue inversion [10]] of order ; the second 

from zealous liberality ; the third from natural 

love of one's own speech. And these reasons, 

and the grounds on which they rest, that I may 

satisfy the objections that might be urged on the 

aforesaid ground, I purpose duly to discuss in 

fashion as follows. 

a. That which most adorns and commends the 

doings of man, and which most directly leads 

them to a prosperous end, is the habit \_zo~\ of 


those dispositions which are ordained to the end Servant 
in view ; as, for instance, courage of mind and ^^^ 
strength of body are ordained to the end of ™*^ ^^ 
chivalry. And so he who is appointed to the 
service of another should have those dispositions 
which are ordained to that end, to wit subjec- a, ^, 7. 
tion, knowledge, and obedience, without which 
a man is not duly disposed for service. For if 
he be not subject in all his conditions (^30] he 
ever goeth irksomely and heavily in his service, 
and seldom continueth therein ; and if he be 
not obedient he serveth not save at his own 
discretion and will, which is rather the service 
of a friend than of a servant. Wherefore to 
avoid this inversion of order it behoves this 
comment, which is made to be servant of the 
odes hereinafter written, to be subject to them 
in its whole ordainment ; and it should have 
[40] acquaintance with the affairs of its lord ; 
and should be obedient to him ; all which dis- 
positions would be lacking to it were it Latin and 
not vernacular, seeing that the odes are vernacular. 

For firstly, if it were Latin it would not be a. 
subject but sovran, both by reason of nobility i. ii. iii. 
and of virtue and of beauty. Of nobility, because 
Latin is stable and uncorruptible and the verna- i. 
cular is unstable and [50] corruptible. Where- 
fore we see in the ancient writings of the Latin 
comedies and tragedies, which cannot be changed, 
that same speech that we have to-day ; and this 
is not the case with the vernacular, which takes 
fashion at our will, and changes. Whence we 
see in the cities of Italy, if we choose to look 
closely, that within fifty years from now many 
words have been quenched and born and changed, 


The and if a short time makes [603 so much change 
virtue of far more change does greater time effect. So 
* that I assert that if they who parted from 
this life a thousand years agone were to return 
to their cities they would believe them to be 
inhabited by a strange folk, because of the 
tongue discordant from their own. Of this I 
shall discourse more at large elsewhere, in a 
book which I intend to make, God granting, 
concerning Vernacular Discourse [^703. 
ii. Further, Latin were sovran rather than 
subject, by reason of its virtue. Everything 
hath virtue of nature which accomplishes that 
for which it was ordained ; and the better it 
doth it the more virtue it hath. Whence we 
call the man virtuous who lives in the life of 
contemplation or action to which he is naturally 
ordained ; we speak of the equine virtue of 
pacing swift and far, whereto the horse is or- 
dained ; we speak of the virtue of a [So] sword 
which smartly cuts things hard, whereto it is 
ordained. Thus speech, which is ordained to 
manifest human conceptions hath virtue when it 
doth this thing ; and that speech hath the most 
virtue which doth it most. Wherefore since 
Latin revealeth many things conceived in the 
mind which the vernacular may not reveal (as 
they know who have the habit of the one speech 
and the other), its virtue is more than that of the 
[903 vernacular, 
iii. Again, it were sovran rather than subject 
by reason of its beauty. Men call that thing 
beautiful the parts whereof duly correspond, 
because from their harmony pleasure results. 
Wherefore we think a man beautiful when his 


members duly correspond to each other ; and we The 
call singing beautiful when the voices correspond nobility 
mutually according to the requirements [lOo] ° ^^"^ 
of the art. Therefore that speech is the more 
beautiful wherein [|the words]] correspond more 
duly []and they correspond more duly]] in Latin 
than in the vernacular, because the vernacular 
foUoweth use and the Latin art ; wherefore it is 
admitted to be of more beauty, of more virtue, 
and of more nobility. And hereby the chief 
contention of this discourse is established, to wit 
that a Latin comment would not have been the 
subject of the odes but their sovran. 

The long discussion of the relation which a Latin com- 
mentary (had it been written) would have borne to the 
text, will probably strike the reader at first as purely 
fantastical, and will attract him, if at all, only by its 
quaintness, and by the shrewdness or humour incidentally 
displayed in treating of human relationships. There is, 
however, a genuine underlying thought which I have 
endeavoured to bring out in the arguments to this and 
the next following chapters. The principle maintained 
is that the atmosphere of the commentary should be as 
far as possible harmonious with that of the text. The 
reader should be kept approximately on the same plane, 
whichever he is reading, and should not find himself 
violently hurled out of one world and into another, as he 
passes from text to commentary. Much light will be 
thrown on the whole question by a consideration of the 
inverse problem that has arisen in our own day as to 
whether it is well to comment on classical texts in 
modern European languages or only in Latin. The 
verdict seems to have been conclusively given in favour 
of the vernacular, but any scholar who has been accus- 
tomed to read Latin commentaries on Latin authors (and 
still more those who are familiar with Greek com- 
mentaries on Greek texts as well) will admit the dis- 
turbing effect of the constant breaking of the linguistic 
atmosphere ; and it is impossible to read a commentary 


on a classic in z. foreign modern language without feeling 
the provincial limitations which the commentator has 
imposed upon himself, or without the sense that, though 
he may thereby lighten his own task, he does not 
essentially widen the area of his appeal, even within the 
range of his own language, while woefully contracting it 
everywhere else. His vehicle, as Dante would say, errs 
both by excess and defect, since he offers to many of his 
own countrymen what they cannot take, and withholds 
from many of his fellow scholars what they would gladly 
have. His procedure is an intrusion of nationality upon 
a region where the natural divisions are not national. 
Dante maintains that his Latin commentary would suffer 
from the inverse fault of allowing the division betv/een 
the literate and illiterate, in the technical sense, to 
obtrude itself into a region where it is irrelevant, and 
where the divisions of nationality, which it ignores, are 
natural and relevant. 

2, 3. Accidental and substantial are here used in their 
technical sense. A ' substance ' is anything that exists on 
its own account ; and an ' accident ' is anything that can 
only exist as an attribute or experience of something else. 
A tree, a soul, or a chest is a substance. Whiteness, im- 
mortality, weight, love, are accidents. To be egotistical 
or obscure is a quality ; but to be an Italian commentary 
is to be a different thing from a Latin commentary. 

1 1. The Italian pronto and pronte%'z,a correspond to the 
Greek irpdOvfios and wpodvfila. The ideas of zeal, eager- 
ness, alacrity and spontaneity are conveyed by the 

19. Habit. See note on I. 1:15. 

23. Compare IV. 9 : 169-173. 

50-52. It was Dante's deliberate conviction that Latin 
was a conventional language, adopted for the purpose of 
stability and universality, by way of counteracting the 
effects of the Tower of Babel. Tn a word, Latin was re- 
garded by Dante as a successful attempt to secure the ob- 
jects contemplated by the apostles of Volapuk or Esperanto, 
see De Vulgari Eloquentia, I. 9 : especially 93-107. 
Widely as this view departs from our own conceptions it 
appears to have at least this foundation in fact, that the 
Latin of Cicero and Vergil was highly conventionalised, 
under literary influences, and that the spoken Latin was 


much nearer to Italian than is generally imagined. It is 
strange, however, that Dante could have maintained, 
even conventionally, that there was anything approaching 
to complete fixity in the literary Latin. In II. 14 : 83- 
89, he dwells expressly on the fluctuations of literary 
Latin, quoting the well-known passage from Horace's 
An Poetica, 60-71. A passage which is evidently in his 
mind again in Paradtso, XXVI. 137, 138. See further 
note to Paradise, XVI. 33, in the 'Temple Classics' 

47-70. Note that in the De Fulgari Eloquentia, I. 
I : 35-41, Dante declares the vernaculars to be 'nobler' 
than the grammars, or classical languages. On lines 68, 
69, compare De Vulgari Eloquentia, I. 9 : 44-93 ; and see 
Appendix, p. 424. 

74-77. Compare IV. 22 ; 103-210. 


[(^) The man who writes a Latin commentary on a 
vernacular text (i.) deliberately renounces the 
medium that can best follow every turn of ex- 
pression that is to be illustrated, in favour of one 
that stands in a neutral relation to ail national 
idioms and has no innate sympathy with the one 
in question; and (ii.) arbitrarily witholds his 
services from all readers of the text who are not 
Latinists, and by thus disobliging many of the 
lovers of the literature he is professing to serve 
he throws an indirect slight upon it.] 

Having shown how the present comment would On the 
not have been subject to the odes, had it been ways of 
in Latin, it remains to show that it would not '"^S'^fs 
have been familiar with them nor obedient to 
them ; and then the conclusion will follow that 
to avoid undue inversion of order it was need- 
ful to speak in the vernacular. 


9° I say that Latin would not have been familiar 
masters ^^^^ C^°3 ^^^ vernacular master for this reason : 
o The servant's familiarity with his master is 
chiefly needed in order to give him perfect 
i- "• understanding of two things. The first is the 
nature of his master ; for there be masters of 
such asinine nature that they order the contrary 
of what they desire ; and others who desire 
to be served and understood without giving 
orders at all ; and others who will not have 
the servant go about to do any needful thing 
except they [20J command it. And why there 
be such varieties amongst men I do not purpose 
at present to expound (for it would make the 
digression too multiplex) save so far as to say 
generically that such are little other than beasts, 
who have small good of their reason. Where- 
fore if the servant does not understand his 
master's nature it is manifest that he cannot 
perfectly serve him. The second thing is that 
the servant must needs be acquainted with his 
[303 master's friends, for otherwise he could 
neither honour nor serve them, and so would 
not perfectly serve his own master ; for friends 
are as it were parts of a single whole, that 
whole being unity in willing and in not willing. 
Now the Latin comment would not have had 
knowledge of these things, whereas the ver- 
nacular itself has. 
i' That Latin hath no familiarity with the ver- 
nacular and its [40] friends is thus proved : 
To know a thing generically is not to know 
it perfectly ; just as he who perceives an animal 
afar off has no perfect understanding of it, not 
knowing whether it be dog or wolf or goat, 


Latin has cognisance of vernacular speech Latin and 
generically, but not in its distinctions, for if it the ver- 
recognised its distinctions it would recognise '^^'Cuia^rs 
all the vernaculars, since there is no reason why 
it should recognise one more than [[50] another. 
And therefore if any man had acquired complete 
command of Latin, he would enjoy discriminat- 
ing familiarity with vernacular speech. But this 
is not so, for he who has perfect command of 
Latin, if he be of Italy, does not recognise the 
vernacular of the German ; nor if a German, 
the Italian or the Proven9al. Whence it is 
manifest that Latin is not familiar with ver- 
nacular speech. Again, it is not familiar with ii. 
its friends ; because it is impossible to []6o3 
know the friends having no knowledge of the 
principal ; wherefore if Latin is not acquainted 
with the vernacular (and it has been shown 
above that it is not) it is impossible for it to 
be acquainted with its friends. Again, without 
intercourse and familiarity it is impossible to 
be acquainted with men, and Latin hath not 
intercourse with so many in any tongue as the 
vernacular of that tongue hath, to which they 
all are friends ; and consequently it cannot [703 
know the friends of the vernacular. And this 
is not contradicted by what might be urged, 
namely, that Latin does converse with certain 
of the friends of the vernacular ; for it is not 
therefoer familiar with them all, and so it is not 
completely acquainted with the said friends ; 
and it is complete and not defective knowledge 
that is needed. 

The reader should be warned that the Italian conoscente 


and connoicen%a which run through 'this chapter have 
been rendered by a great variety of English words, 
'acquaintance,' 'familiarity,' 'understanding,' 'recogni- 
tion,' 'knowledge.' 

In this chapter Dante seems to have been led by his 
illustration further away from his subject than usual. 
The details can hardly be regarded as significant, but the 
general idea is a sound one, and its truth will be re- 
cognised by all who are familiar, for instance, with the 
Latin commentaries on the Comedy. In the use of Latin 
there is a fraudulent appearance of standing on higher 
ground, whereas really the special resources of Italian for 
explaining Italian are forfeited and nothing is gained 
(for it is only the Italian scholar, after all, limited by his 
comprehension of Italian, that speaks under the cloak 
of the Latinist), while there is a perpetual tone of con- 
descension — sometimes amounting almost to insolence — 
in the way in which the classical language stoops to 
explain the upstart Italian. 

The only compensation is that the technical terms of 
philosophy are easier to grasp and handle in Latin than 
Italian ; and even this Dante ingeniously turns into 
another disqualification, as we shall see under 7, ii. 

45-58. The Latinist must be aware, in a general way, 
that there is such a thing as a man's mother tongue (and 
each Latinist, though not qua Latinist, must be ac- 
quainted with his own mother tongue), but his knowledge 
of Latin does not, in itself, enable him so much as to 
distinguish between German and Provenyal. 



[(7) The Latin commentary would have lacked flex- 
ible self-adaption to the text (i. ) because of the 
harshness already indicated of the more dignified 
language being under command to the less digni- 
fied ; (ii. ) because there is no real subordination 
in going your own way even if someone tells you 
to do it ; and as a knowledge of Latin already 
involves the understanding of much that the 
commentary is to explain, there would be no 
real lending of itself to the text on the part of 
the Latin commentary ; and (iii.) it would fail, 
by excess and defect, to adapt itself to the 
demands of a poetic text, for such a text would 
naturally require that all they, and only they, 
who could feel it as poetry should have its sense 
expounded, whereas Latin would expound it to 
many (foreigners) who could not feel its beauty, 
and would fail to expound it to many (natives) 
who could.] 

Having shown that the Latin comment would On obedi- 
not have served with understanding, I will tell ^^ce 
how it would not have been obedient. He is 
obedient who possesses that excellent disposition 7. 
which is called obedience. True .obedience 
must needs have three things, without which it 
may not be. It must be sweetj^ not bitter ; and i. ii. iii. 
completely under command, not self-moved ; 
and measured, not out of [10] measure. The 
which tliree things it were impossible for the 
Latin comment to have, and therefore it were 
impossible for it to be obedient. 

That it would have been impossible for the 
Latin to be obedient is manifested by the argu- 
ment that follows. Whatsoever proceeds in in- 
verted order is iiksome, and therefore bitter and i. 


Still on not sweet ; like sleeping by day and watching by 
obedi- night, or going backwards and not forwards. 
^"^^ For the subject to command the sovran is pro- 
ceeding in inverted order ; for the right order 
is for the sovran [^203 to command the subject : 
wherefore it is bitter and not sweet. And since 
it is impossible sweetly to obey a bitter command, 
it is impossible when the subject commands for 
the obedience of the sovran to be sweet. Where- 
fore if the Latin is sovran of the vernacular, as 
has been shown above by many arguments, and 
the odes which take the place of commanders 
are vernacular, it is impossible that their [30 J 
relation should be sweet, 
ii. Further, obedience is wholly commanded and 
in no part self-moved when he who does a thing 
in obedience would not, unless commanded, have 
done it of his own motion either in whole or in 
part. Wherefore if I were ordered to bear two 
cloaks on my back, and should have borne one 
without orders, I say that [^403 my obedience is 
not wholly under command, but is in part self- 
moved. And such would have been the obedi- 
ence of the Latm comment; and consequently 
it would not have been an obedience wholly 
under command. That it would have been 
such appears hereby, that Latin without the 
command of this master would have expounded 
many parts of his meaning (and actually expounds 
it, if anyone closely inspect writings that are 
written in Latin) which [[503 the vernacular 
does not in any degree, 
iii. Again, obedience is measured and not out of 
measure when it goes to the edge of the com- 
mand and not beyond it ; just as particular 


nature is obedient to universal nature when it On 
gives a man thirty-two teeth, neither more nor Pleasured 
less ; and when it gives five fingers to the hand, ° ^ lence 
neither more nor less ; and man is obedient to 
justice [when he does what shej commands to 
thie evil-doer. Now this the [603 Latin would 
not have done, but would have sinned not only in 
defect and not only in excess, but in both ; and 
thus its obedience would have been not measured 
but out of measure, and consequently it would not 
have been obedient. That Latin would not 
have filled out its master's command, and that it 
would also have exceeded it may easily be 
shown. This master, to wit these odes, to 
which [^70] this comment is ordained as servant, 
command and will that they be expounded to 
all such to whom their meaning can so come 
that when they speak, they shall be understood. 
And no one doubts that if they could utter their 
commands in words this is what they would order. 
Now Latin would only have expounded them 10 
the lettered, for others would not have under- 
stood it. Wherefore inasmuch as there are far 
[803 more unlettered than lettered who desire to 
understand them, it follows that Latin would not 
have fully accomplished their order, as doth the 
vernacular, which is understood alike by the 
lettered and the unlettered. Moreover, Latin 
would have expounded them to folk of another 
tongue, such as Germans and English and others ; 
and here it would have exceeded their command. 
For, speaking at large, I declare that it would 
have been against their will that their meaning 
should be expounded [90^ where they them- 
selves could not carry it together with their 


On trans- beauty. And therefore let everyone know that 
lations of nothing which hath the harmony of musical con- 
P°^ ^ nection can be transferred from its own tongue 
into another without shattering all its sweetness 
and harmony. And this is the reason why 
Homer is not translated from Greek into Latin, 
as are the other writings that we have of theirs ; 
and this is the reason why the verses of the 
Psalter are without the sweetness of [^loo]] 
music and of harmony, for they were translated 
from Hebrew into Greek, and from Greek into 
Latin, and in the first translation all their sweet- 
ness perished. And thus is the conclusion 
reached which was promised at the beginning 
of the chapter immediately before this. 

1 8. Going backwards and not forwards . Compare In- 
ferno, XX. 1-30. 

44-50. What I take to be the general meaning of this 
passage is set forth in the argument ; but possibly it may 
also have some reference to grammatical questions which 
could not be discussed in Latin without much artificiality. 
Compare IV. 25:123-126. In ' Et suam personam 
adornat,' adornat would not be open to the ambiguity of 
the Italian adorna, which may be — (i) an adjective; 
(2) 2nd person imperative ; (3) 3rd person indicative. 
A Latin comment, equivalent to the Italian comment 
given by Dante on this word, would involve somewhat 
elaborate precautions to prevent the difficulty from dis- 
appearing before it had been explained, which the 
vernacular might resent, something as a man who 
stammers resents having his sentence finished for him 
by his interlocutor, 

53-58. The distinction between universal nature and 
particular nature is frequently insisted on by the School- 
men with reference to both physical and spiritual things. 
Thus disease is 'unnatural' to the diseased creature, but 
yet is part of the 'natural' sequence of cause and effect 
taken generally, God, in his dealings with his creatures, 
lometimes enables them to transcend the limits of their 


'particular' nature, but what happens then cannot be 
called' 'unnatural ' in the absolute sense. Indeed, ulti- 
mately ' what God gives to anything is its nature.' 

The 'better,' the 'higher' or the 'most universal' 
nature may be used as a circumlocution for God. Com- 
pare Purgatorio, XVI. 79 ; De Monorchia, I. I ; 2. 

jj ft". Letteratus and non-ktteratus, which I have ren- 
dered lettered and unlettered, are the technical terms for 
those who understand Latin and those who do not. 'Scis 
litteras ? ' for example, means, * Do you understand Latin ? ' 

84-91. It must surely be impossible for any translator to 'O IBSS 

handle this passage without a sharp sense of compunction " "' "^ - 

and an involuntary desire to propitiate the injured shade 
of Dante, May I exhort my readers to make use of this 
translation not as a substitute for the original, but as a 
stepping-stone to the enjoyment of that 'beauty' whicK •' '^ 
alone can bring full understanding of Dante's work ? 
Thus, to speak with Boccaccio, may I excuse myself 
before Dante, * who perchance looks down upon me, as I 
write, with an eye of scorn, from some lofty region of 

96. All Dante's quotations from Homer are taken at 
second hand from the Latij^ truncations of Aristotle. 

8t . <>J IQ^ 

'W^ ''i *j /!C> -Jimv J'.';/- .1 

{(b) The giver who has a true zeal for giving will 

confer gifts (a) on many, (^) with thoughtful 

care that they shall be appropriate, (7) spon- 

-1 taneously. For (a) there is a divine inclusive- 

?•• ness in widely-extended gifts, and (yS) though a 

gift as such may shew the giver's friendship, yet 

it leaves the dissatisfied sense of a lost oppor- 

' tunity if it is not appropriate ; and a discriminat- 

flf ing gift (i.) has a certain cheeriness alike for 

giver and receivei ; (ii.) objectively considered 

has the merit of moving a thing to where it is 

more wanted and where accordingly it has an 

increased significance ; (iii.) impresses itself more 

profoundly on the receiver's mind and therefore 


better increases friendship in the world, and (iv.) 
has the grace of an unforced air, as though it 
were the natural thing, not brought about by 
strain and effort. (7) The giver who gives not 
spontaneously, but puts the receiver to begging, 
destroys the virtue of his gift by the bitter price 
of prayers which he extorts ; a price which en- 
riches him not, though it beggar the other.] »» 

Zeal of Now that it has been shown by sufficient reasons 
liberality how, to avoid undue inversion of order, the 
aforesaid odes must needs have a vernacular 
and not a Latin comment to reveal and expound 
/; I. them, I purpose to show how zealous liberality 
likewise made me choose the one and drop the 
other. Zealous liberality, then, is marked by 
three things which cleave to this [^lo]] ver- 
nacular and would not have cleft to the Latin. 
«> Pi 7- The first is giving to many, the second is giving 
things useful, the third is giving the gift without 
a. its being asked. For to give to and to help one is 
good, but to give to and to help many is zealous 
goodness, inasmuch as it taketh its likeness from 
the benefactions of God, who is the most uni- 
versal benefactor. And, moreover, it is im- 
possible to give to many without giving to one, 
inasmuch as one is included in many ; [203 
but it is entirely possible to give to one with- 
out giving to many. Wherefore he who helps 
many doth the one good deed and the other ; 
he who helps one doth the one good deed only ; 
whence we see the makers of the laws keeping 
their eyes chiefly fixed on the general good in 
making them. 
/3. Again, to give things that are of no use to 
him who receives them is indeed good, in so far 


as he who gives shows at least his friendship; Onuseful- 

but it is not perfectly good and so is not zealous ness in 

giving ; [30]] as if a knight should give a &"" 

shield to a doctor, and the doctor should give a 

copy of the Aphorisms of Hippocrates or the 

Art of Galen to the knight ; wherefore the wise 

say that the face of the gift ought to resemble 

that of the receiver, that is to say should be 

suitable to him, and should be useful ; and 

herein is the liberality deemed zealous of the 

man who is thus discerning in his gifts. 

[403 But inasmuch as moral counsellings 
are wont to create a desire to investigate their 
origin, in this chapter I purpose briefly to ex- 
pound four reasons why a gift must needs be i. ii. iii. iv. 
useful to him who receives it in order that there 
may be zealous liberality therein. 

Firstly, because virtue should be cheerful, and i. 
not gloomy in its every act. Wherefore, if the 
gift be not cheerful in the giving and in the \j)0~\ 
receiving, there is not perfect nor zealous virtue 
in it. This cheerfulness nought else can secure 
save utility, which abides in the giver by the 
giving and which comes to the receiver by the 
receiving. The giver then must show foresight 
in so doing that on his side remains the utility 
of the comeliness which is above all utility ; 
and in so doing that to the receiver shall go 
over the utility of the use of the thing given ; 
and thus the one and the other will be [^603 
cheerful, and consequently there will be more 
zealous liberality. 

Secondly, because virtue should always move ii. 
things for the better. Thus, as it would be a 
blameworthy action to make a spade out of a 


luV ' The beautiful sword, or to make a beautiful goblet 
virtues of out of a beautiful lyre, so it is blameworthy to 
^ ^ move a thing from a place where it is useful and 
bear it to a place where it will be less useful. 
And, because futile action is [^yoj blameworthy, 
it is blameworthy not only to put a thing where 
it will be less useful but also to put it where it 
will be equally useful. Wherefore, in order that 
the changing of things may be praiseworthy it 
must ever be for the better because it should aim 
at being praiseworthy in the highest degree ; and 
the gift cannot effect this except it become more 
dear by the change; nor can it become more 
dear except it become more useful [SdJ for the 
receiver to use than the giver. Whence th? 
conclusion follows that the gift must be useful 
to him who receives it in order that there may 
be zealous liberality in the giving. 
iii. Thirdly, because the operation of virtue ought 
in itself to acquire friends ; since our life has 
need of such, and the end of virtue is that our 
life should be satisfied. Wherefore, in order that 
the gift may make the receiver [[903 friendly, 
it should be useful to him, because utility stamps 
the memory with the image of the gift : which 
same is the food of friendship ; and it stamps 
it the more strongly in measure as the utility is 
greater ; wherefore Martin is wont to say, * I 
shall not forget the present which John made 
me.' So that, in order for its proper virtue to 
reside in the gift, to wit liberality, and for it to 
be zealous, the gift must be useful to him' who 
•'i receives it. ■ ■:\:-)'k r : , Ahi.o'.. s<-'. 

iv. £1003 Finally, because virtue should be fired 
and not constrained in its action. Action is 


free when a person goes spontaneously in any Spon- 
direction, and it is shown by his turning his taneity in 
face that way. Action is constrained when a &*^^"& 
man goes against his will, and it is cHown in 
his not looking in the direction in which he is 
going. Now the gift looks that way when it is 
directed to the need of him who receives it. 
And since it cannot be directed [[iio]] thereto 
unless it be useful, in order that the virtue may 
be free in its action the gift must have free 
course in the direction in which it travels to- 
gether with the receiver ; and consequently the 
utility of the receiver must be comprised in the 
gift in order that there may be zealous liberality 
in it. 

The third thing wherein zealous liberality 7. 
may be noted is giving without being asked ; 
because when a thing is asked for, then the trans- 
action is, on one side, not a matter of virtue but 
of commerce, inasmuch as he who receives 
buys, though he who gives sells not ; wherefore 
Seneca [[1203 saith 'that nothing is bought 
more dear than that on which prayers are spent.' 
Wherefore, in order that there may be zealous 
liberality in the gift, and that it may be noted 
therein, it behoves that it be clear of every 
feature of merchandise ; and so the gift must 
be unasked. Why the thing begged for costs 
so dear I do not propose [130^ to discourse of 
here, because it will be sufficiently discoursed of 
in the last treatise of this book. 

33. Hippocrates (460-357 B.C.) was the greatest of 
Greek physicians. His Aphorisms were well-khown in 
the later middle ages. Compare Paradise, XI. 4. Few 
sayings are more familiar than the opening words of the 


first aphorism, which runs in its entirety : ' Life is short, 
but art long ; opportunity is fleeting, experiment risky, 
judgment hard. Nor must the physician only see to it 
that he himself works right, but also that the patient, 
the nurses, and the external appliances, do.' Galen (130- 
200 A.D.). He commented on Hippocrates and wrote 
numerous works of his own. His Tex*''? preserved its 
Greek name (in the corrupt form of Tegni) in the 

56. bomeitneis. The Latin honestum and honestas have 
long been the despair of translators. The Italian onesto 
and onestade add difficulties of their own. The word 
is here used in contrast to ' utility,' as signifying that 
which is inherently worthy, noble, or fitting, 

94. For this use of John and Martin see Wll'iVi'Bfi 
Compare ParWw, XIIL 139. ■"■'.■ '-I'-i'r 

120-132. This identifies Ode XIV. as the text of the 
fifteenth treatise. See lines 1 19-122. 


[Now had the author made the gift of a Latin com- 
mentary it would have had none of the three 
marks of zeal, whereas the Italian has them all. 
For (a) the Latin would only have served those 
few Italian scholars who have a true love of liter- 
ature for its own sake and not for gain, whereas 
the Italian commentary will serve the many 
Italian men of affairs, and women, who care for 
the high themes to be therein discussed, but have 
no knowledge of Latin. And accordingly (j8) a 
I^atin commentary would have been a useless 
gift, for only one scholar here and there has 
any interest in the knowledge and virtue it is 
to inculcate, whereas the seeds of true noble- 
ness are in the hearts of many readers of the 
vernacular. And (7) there is the freshness of 
spontaneity in the unexpected Italian commen- 
tary, whereas Latin commentaries so often have 
the laboured air of things done because they 
are conventionally expected.] 


Now from all the three above-named conditions, Sordid 
which must unite in order that zealous liberality pursuit of 
may reside in a benefaction, the Latin commen- ^ ^ 
tary would have been remote, whereas the ^ a y 
vernacular is accompanied by them, as may be 
manifestly demonstrated thus : The Latin would 
not have served many ; for (if we call to mind 
what was said above) lettered men who have 
not the [^10] Italian tongue could not have 
enjoyed this service. And as for those who 
have this tongue (should we choose to examine 
closely who they are), we shall find that they 
would have been served by it perhaps in the 
proportion of one to a thousand ; for the rest 
would not have received it, so zealous are they 
towards avarice, which parts them from all 
nobility of mind, which is the chief cause for 
desiring this food. And in reproof of them I 
say that they ought not to be called lettered 
[203 because they do not acquire literature for 
its own use, but just in so far as they may gain 
money or office by it ; just as we ought not to 
call him a harper who hath a harp in his house 
to hire out for a price, and not to use it to play 
upon. Returning then to the main proposition, a. 
I say that it is clear enough how the Latin 
would have conferred its benefit upon few, 
whereas verily the vernacular will be of service 
to many. For [303 goodness of mind, which 
awaits this service, is to be found in them who, 
by the grievous disuse of the world, have 
abandoned literature to such as have made her 
a harlot instead of a lady ; which noble ones 
are princes, barons and knights, and many other 
noble folk, not only men but women, of which 


Lettered men and women alike there are many of this 
and un- tongue who command the vernacular but are not 
lettered 1^^^^,^^. 

/3. Further, Latin would not have been the 
[403 giver of a useful gift which the vernacular 
will be ; because nothing is useful save in so far 
as it is used ; nor does its excellence consist in 
potentiality which is not perfected existence ; as 
in the case of gold, gems and other treasures 
which be buried — albeit those which are in the 
hand of a miser are in a baser place than is* the 
earth wherein the treasure is hidden. Now 
what this comment gives verily is the meaning 
of the odes [^503, for which purpose it is made ; 
the principal design whereof is to lead men to 
knowledge and virtue, as will be seen in the 
progress of the treatment of them. Of this 
meaning none can avail themselves save such in 
whom true nobility is sown, after the fashion 
which will be related in the fourth treatise ; and 
almost all of these command the vernacular only, 
even as those noble ones named above in this 
chapter. And this is not contradicted by [^603 
a lettered man here and there being one of 
them ; for as saith my master Aristotle in the 
first of the Ethics, ' one swallow does not make 
spring.' It is plain then that the vernacular 
will give a useful thing, whereas the Latin 
would not have given it. 
7. Further, the vernacular will give a gift un- 
asked, which the Latin would not have done; 
for it will give itself as a commentary, which 
was never yet asked by anyone ; and this cannot 
be said of the [703 Latin, for it has been 
demanded ere now as commentary and gloss to 


many writings, as may be seen clearly at the Latin 
head of many of the same. And thus it is commen- 
manifest that zealous liberality moved me to the ^''-^^ 
vernacular rather than to the Latin. 

' 22 On sordid motives for study, compare III. 11 : 
102 ff; ParadisOylX. 127-142, XII. 82-87. 

32. Grievous disuse of the ivorld ; /.f. ,'the unhappy 
fact that the laity have given up studying Latin.' Com- 
pare the passage in Boccaccio's 'Life,' in which he says 
that Dante wrote the comedy in Italian, ' Because he 
perceived that liberal studies were utterly abandoned, 
especially by princes and other great men to whom poetic 
toils were wont to be dedicated.' 

42 fF, If the text is sound (which may be doubted) 
Cfante must be taken to mean that the potentiality of 
good is not in itself goodness, only the actualising of good 
being such. He instances buried gold and gems, but 
suddenly remembers that their discovery may be the 
actualising of untold evil rather than of beauty and joy. 
Compare IV. 11: 36-50. 

70 fF. This quaint remark of Dante's is doubtless 
made in all simplicity, but to the modern student it 
reads almost like a stroke of satire aimed at the constant 
protestations of the ecclesiastical writers that they only 
give publicity to their studies at the earnest entreaty of 
their friends. Gregory, for instance, in dedicating his 
colossal commentary on the Book of Job (commonly 
known as the Magna Moralia) to his contemporary, 
Leander, Bishop of Seville, after telling of his studious 
conferences with certain brothers, adds, ' and then it 
pleased the same brothers, supported by your insistence, 
as you yourself remember, to urge me with pressing 
request to expound the book of the Blessed Job ' ; and 
Augustine tells us that when he was a presbyter in 
Carthage, certain brothers with whom he had read the 
Epistle to the Romans begged him to commit his remarks 
to writing, which was the origin of his fragmentary com- 
mentary. Such declarations perpetually occur, not only 
in commentaries, but in treatises like Augustine's De 
Triniiate, Peter Lombard's Sentences, Anselm's theo- 
logical monographs, and so forth. 



[Yet all this would scarce serve to excuse or prompt 
so bold an innovation as an Italian comment- 
ary unless supported by (c) the author's burning 
love of his own language, which makes him (a) 
exult in so handling it as to show its undeveloped 
and unsuspected resources ; (j3) shrink from the 
•^ possibility of causing clumsy and distorted 
."" Italian to be written, as might come to pass 
'^' should he write his comment in Latin and 
should some other hand translate it for the 
vulgar, and (7) desire to strip it of the arti- 
ficial beauties of verse and display it in the 
native and unadorned charm of prose, and so 
■-,' give a practical refutation of those miserable 
j.^ Italians who for base reasons of their own, that 
''"' will be detailed in the next chapter, cry up 
some other vernacular above their own.] 

Dangers Great must be the excuse when at a banquet so 
of inno- noble in its viands and so distinguished in its 
'* ° guests, oaten and not wheaten bread is pre- 
sented ; and evident must be the reason which 
shall make a man depart from that which hath 
long been observed by others, to wit comment- 
ing in Latin. And therefore the reason must 
be [10]] made manifest ; for the issue of new 
things is uncertain, because there hath never 
been experience thereof, by which things of 
usage and tradition are regulated both in their 
progress and in their end. And this is why 
Reason was moved to commend that men should 
have careful respect of entering on a new path, 
saying * that in ordaining new things the reason 
must be evident which shall make us depart 
from that which hath long been of use.' Let 
none [20]] marvel then if the digression of my 


apology be long, but let him patiently endure its The 
length, as necessary. And following it out I author's 
declare that (inasmuch as it hath been shown T*J^f-° 
how I was moved to the vernacular and forsook 
the Latin commentary, to prevent undue inver- 
sion of order, and in zeal of liberality) the order 
of the whole apology will have me show how I 
was moved thereto by the natural [^30] love of c i. 
my own tongue ; which is the third and last 
reason which moved me to it. Hereto, I say, 
that natural love chiefly moves the lover to three 
things ; the first is to magnify the loved object, a, /3, 7. 
the next to be jealous for it, the third is to 
defend it, as everyone may see continualiji 
happening. And these three things made me .^. 
adopt it, to wit the vernacular, for both natur- 
ally and incidentally I [40^ love it and have 
loved. :: 

1 was movfed in the first place tofliagftify it. a. 
And that herein I do magnify it may be seen by 
this reason. Albeit things can be magnified, 
that is made great, by many conditions of great- 
ness, none of them makes so great as the great- 
ness of their own proper excellence, which is 
the mother and preserver of the other great- 
nesses. Wherefore a man can have no greatness 
more C50] than that of the virtuous operation 
which is his own proper excellence, whereby 
the greatness of true dignities and of true 
honours, of true power, of true riches, of true 
friends, of true and clear fame, are both acquired 
and preserved. And this greatness do I give to 
this friend, inasmuch as the excellence which 
it had in potentiality and in secret I make it have 
in actuality and publicity, in its own proper [603 


His operation, which is to make manifest the thought 

jealousy conceived. 

or lan j ^^^ moved in the second place by jealousy 
P- for it. Jealousy for a friend makes a man take 
anxious thought for his distant future. Where- 
fore, reflecting that the desire to understand these 
odes would have induced some unlettered man 
to have the Latin commentary translated into 
the vernacular, and fearing lest the vernacular 
should be set down by one who should make it 
appear [^70] hideous, as did he who translated 
the Latin of the Ethics, I was careful myself to 
set it down, trusting rather in myself than in 
7. I was further moved to defend it from its 
many detractors who dispraise it and commend 
the others, especially the Langue d'Oc, saying 
that this is more beauteous and better than that ; 
departing herein from the truth. C^°D ^^^ ^7 
this comment the great excellence of the ver- 
nacular of St will be perceived, to wit how by it 
the most lofty and most novel conceptions are 
expressed, well-nigh as aptly, as adequately, and 
as gracefully as in Latin itself; for in rhymed 
compositions, because of the incidental adorn- 
ments which are inwoven therein, to wit rhyme 
and rhythm and regulated number, its own 
excellence cannot be made manifest ; no more 
than the [^90] beauty of a woman can when the 
adornment of decking and of garments brings 
her more admiration than she brings herself. 
Wherefore let him who would rightly judge of 
a woman look on her when only her natural 
beauty accompanies her, severed from all in- 
cidental adornment ; even as this comment will 


be wherein shall be perceived the smoothness of The 
its syllables, the propriety of its rules, and the beauty of 
sweet l^iooj discourses that are made of it; ^*" 
all which he who shall rightly consider it will 
perceive to be full of sweetest and most attractive 
beauty. But since it is a most effective part of 
invention to demonstrate the viciousness and 
malice of the accuser, I will tell, to the con- 
fusion of those who accuse the Italian speech, 
what it is that moves them thereto. And of 
this I will presently make a separate chapter, 
that their infamy may be the more conspicuous. 

14. Reason, i.e., The Roman Law. Ragione is used in 
Italian to signify either ' reason,' or 'justice,' or the Code 
of Just'm'mn. It may be interesting to note that while ^,~ 
English Law aspires to be 'the perfection of common _ 'V, -v , 
sense,' Roman Law was regarded as reason herself ''l. ., 
reduced to writing. The phrase in the text is translated "^^ '*' ° 
from the D;|;ef/, Book I. Title iv. . :jj :j j 

70. The translator in question is supposed to be the ., 
physician Taddeo mentioned by Dante in Paradiso XII. 
83 (Toynbee). 

jj. Langue d'Oc= Provencal. 

8 1 . Vernacular of S} = Ita lian . 

103. In-vention. It seems strange that the editors 
should allow the ititenztone of the MSS. to stand in the 
text. If we substituted defen%ione the translation would 
be very easy, but probably the real word is tn-venzione. In 
that case there is a direct reference to Cicero's De In- 
-ventione, one of the standard books of rhetoric in the 
middle ages. In Lib. I. cap. 16 of that treatise the reader 
is shown how he may strengthen his case by bringing his 
adversary into ' hatred, envy, or contempt.' In-vention is 
defined as ' thinking out things, true or verisimilar, which 
make your cause credible,' 


,^^^/'^: , CHAPTER XI : 

[This depi'ejfcia'tioil of Italian rests on (i.) mere thought- 
less repetition; (ii.) the disingenuous excuses of 
those who, being unable to handle their language 
powerfully, say that it is the fault of the 
language; (iii.) the vanity of those who, being 
familiar with foreign literatures, exalt them 
above their own to increase their personal dis- 
tinction ; (iv. ) the envious detraction of those 
who having no literary distinction themselves 
insidiously detract from that of others about 
them by slighting its instrument, and (v.) that 
poverty of spirit which makes a man think that 
nothing associated with his poor self can be 

• 1 .' -tittythihg? bBt ^oK y-'-- ' 

The To the perpetual infamy and suppression of the 
defamers evil men of Italy who prize the vernacular of 
of Italian another and disprize their own, I declare that 
i. ii. iii. their impulse arises from five detestable causes, 
iv. v. The first, blindness in discernment ; the second, 
disingenuous excusing ; the third, desire of vain- 
glory; the fourth, the prompting of envy ; the fifth 
and last, [lo]] abjectnessof mind or pusillanimity. 
And each one of these guilty tendencies has so 
great a following that there be few exempt from 
i. Of the first one may thus discourse : like as the 
sensitive part of the mind hath its eyes whereby 
it^pprehendeth the difference of things in so far as 
they are coloured externally, even so hath the 
rational part its eye whereby it apprehendeth the 
[]2o3 difference of things in so far as they be or- 
dained to some certain end ; and this same eye is 
discernment. And like as he who is blind with 
the eyes of sense must ever judge of evil or good 


according to others, so he who is blind of the Sheeplike 
light of discernment must ever follow in his opinion 
judgment after mere report, true or false. And ■' ' 

so, whensoever the leader is blind, he himself, 
and also the one, blind likewise, who [30]] 
leaneth upon him, must needs come to an evil 
end. Wherefore it is written, that the blind 
shall lead the blind and so shall they both fall 
into the ditch. Now this same report hath 
long been counter to our vernacular, for reasons 
which will be discoursed of below. Following 
the which, the blind ones spoken of above, who 
are almost without number, with their hands 
upon the shoulders of these liars, have fallen into 
the ditch of the false opinion from which they 
know not how [403 to escape. To the habit 
of this light of discernment the populace are 
specially blinded, because they are occupied 
from the beginning of their lives with some 
trade, and so direct their minds to it, by force 
of necessity, that they give heed to nought else. 
And because the habit of a virtue, whether moral 
or intellectual, may not be had of a sudden, but 
must needs be acquired by practice, and they 
1^50] devote their practice to some art, and are 
not careful to discern other things, it is im- 
possible for them to have discernment. Where- 
fore it comes to pass that they often cry long live 
their death and death to their life, if only some- 
one raise the cry. And this is the most perilous 
defect involved in their blindness. Where- 
fore Boethius considers popular glory an empty 
thing, because he sees that it has no discernment. 
Such are to be regarded as sheep and not men ; 
for if [60] one sheep were to fling itself over a 



Dis- precipice of a thousand paces all the others 
ingenuous would go after it ; and if one sheep leap for any 
excuses reason as it passes a street all the others leap, 
although they see nothing to leap over. And 
ere now I myself have seen one after another 
leap into a well because one leapt into it (think- 
ing, I suppose, that it was leaping over a wall), 
although the shepherd, wailing and shouting, set 
himself with \^Jo] arms and breast before them. 
ii. The second sect who oppose our vernacular 
is made up by disingenuous excusings. There 
are many who love to be thought masters rather 
than to be such ; and to avoid the opposite (to 
wit, not being thought such) they ever find fault 
with the material of their art that is furnished 
them, or else the instrument ; for example, a 
bad smith finds fault with the iron furnished him, 
and a bad harper [jSoJ finds fault with the harp, 
thinking to throw the blame of the bad knife or 
the bad music upon the iron and upon the harp, 
and to remove it from himself. And in like 
manner there be some, and they are not few, who 
would have men think them poets ; and to excuse 
themselves for not poetising, or for poetising 
badly, they accuse and blame the material, to wit 
their own vernacular, and praise that of others, 
which they are not required to forge. And if 
anyone would see how far this iron is really 
[[go]] to be blamed, let him look upon the works 
which the good artificers make from it, and he 
will recognise the disingenuousness of those who 
by blaming it think to excuse themselves. 
Against such as these Tully cries out in the 
beginning of a book of his, which is called the 
book Concerning the Goal of Good; because in 


his time they found fault with the Latin of the Vanity 
Romans and commended the Grammar of the ^^'^ ^^^ 
Greeks, for the like reasons for which these 
others now make the Italian speech cheap and 
[]ioo3 that of Provence precious. 

The third sect against our vernacular is made iii. 
up by desire of vainglory. There are many 
who by handling things composed in some tongue 
not their own, and by commending the said 
tongue, look to be more admired than by 
handling things in their own tongue. And 
doubtless it is a matter of some praise of intellect 
rightly to apprehend a foreign tongue ; but it is 
blameworthy to commend it beyond the truth, 
in order to vaunt oneself for such [no] ac- 

The fourth is made up by the prompting of iv. 
envy. As was said above, there is envy where- 
ever there is similarity. Amongst men of one 
tongue there is similarity in vernacular ; and 
because one cannot handle it as another can, 
envy springs up. So the envious man goes 
subtly to work and doth not find with him who 
poetises the fault of not knowing how to write, 
but finds fault with that which is the material 
[120] of his work, so that by slighting the 
work on that side he may deprive the poet of 
honour and of fame ; as one should find fault 
with the steel of a sword for the sake of dis- 
crediting not the steel, but the whole work of 
the master. 

The fifth and last sect is impelled by abject- v. 
ness of mind. The large-souled man ever exalts 
himself in his heart, and so counter wise the 
small-souled man ever holds himself [1303 less 


Pusil- than he really is. And because magnifying 

lanimity and minifying always have regard to something 

in comparison to which the large-souled man 

makes himself great and the small-souled man 

makes himself little, it comes to pass that the 

;;. large-souled man always makes others of less 
account than they are, and the small-souled man 
of more. And because with the same measure 
wherewith a man measures himself he measures 
the things that are his, which are as it were a 
part of himself, n^40ll '^^ comes to pass that the 
large-souled man's things always seem to him 
better than they are, and the things of others 
worse ; and the small-souled man always thinks 
his things of little worth, and the things of 
others of much. Wherefore many, by reason 

. of this abjectness, depreciate their own vernacular 
and praise that of others. 

And all these together make up the detestable 
wretches of Italy who hold cheap that costly 
vernacular, if which be vile in ought it is [150^ 
only in so far as it sounds upon the prostitute 
lips of these adulterers, by whose guidance the 
blind men go of whom I made mention under 
the head of the first cause. 

40-46, Compare I. i : 30-35, where the same fact is 
regarded from a somewhat different point of view. 

58-70. Compare the very different temper in which 
the same characteristics of sheep are treated in Purgatorio 
III. 79-84. 

84. Poets. The Italian is dicitori. Perhaps it may 
mean orators (as Miss Hillard takes it), or -writers 

97, 98. The grammar of the Greeks, Though Dante 
generally uses the word grammar to mean Latin (as in 
our ' Grammar School,' equivalent to the German 


'Lateinische Schule'), yet he regards it as applicable to 
any language with (as he supposed) conventionally fixed 
literary forms. See De f^ulgari Elcquentia, I. I : 27-34, 
where it is asserted that all peoples have a vernacular 
but only some (the Greeks amongst them) a grammar. 
Compare I. 5 : 50-52, «ofe. 

126-144. Aristotle's /xeyaXoxpvxos has always given 
trouble both to commentators and translators. He is the 
man of conscious superiority, who is worthy of great 
things and estimates himself at his true worth (sec note 
on IV. 17 : 44) ; and though, as represented by Aristotle, 
he is already offensively 'superior,' yet in the present 
passage Dante adds difficulties to the Aristotelian con- 
ception by seeming to make his magnamnto overestimate 
(instead of duly estimating) his own high significance 
relatively to that of others, which would throw him into 
one of Aristotle's vicious extremes. 


[The author's burning love of his native tongue, 
manifested in the ways set forth above, itself 
springs from two causes (a, /3) that beget, and 
form three (7, 5, e) that foster love, (o) The 
home feeling we have to the language we first 
spoke as children breeds a love for it that can 
never be superseded, and (/3) the proved ex- 
cellence of Italian as a vehicle of thought makes 
it the object of love, on its own account, apart 
from all personal associations.] 

If the flame of fire were Issuing plain to see Flames 
from the windows of a house, and one should o* ^^'^^ 
ask whether there was a fire therein, and another 
should answer him yea, I could not well judge 
which of the two were most to be derided. 
And of no other fashion were his question 
and my answer should one ask me, after the 


Nearness reasons set forth above, whether love of my 

of a man's own tongue is in me [loj and should I answer 

motner j^j^^ ^^^^ -^^^ none the less I have yet to show 

that not only love but most perfect love of it 

c 2. abides in me, and I have yet further to denounce 

its adversaries. And in demonstrating this to 

whoso shall rightly understand, I will tell how 

I became its friend, and then how the friendship 

was confirmed. 

I say then (as Tully may be seen to write in 
that of Friendship, not \J2.o~\ departing therein 
from the teaching of the Philosopher, set forth 
a, /3. in the eighth and ninth of the Ethics) that near- 
ness and excellence are the natural causes which 
7» 5> ^- generate love ; and benefaction, [community 
of 3 study and comradeship are the causes whicla 
foster love. And all these causes have been at 
work begetting and strengthening the love which 
I bear to my vernacular, as I will briefly show. 
"■ C3°3 ^ thing is near in proportion as of all 
the things of its kind it is most closely united to 
a man ; wherefore a son is nearest to his father ; 
and of all arts medicine is nearest to the doctor, 
and music to the musician, because they are 
more closely united to them than are the rest ; 
of all lands that is nearest to a man wherein he 
maintains himself, because it is more closely 
united to him. And thus a man's proper ver- 
nacular [403 is nearest to him, inasmuch as 
it is most closely united to him ; for it is singly 
and alone in his mind before any other; and 
not only is it united to him essentially, in itself, 
but also incidentally, inasmuch as it is con- 
joined with the persons closest to him, as his 
relatives, his fellow-citizens, and his own people. 


Such, then, is a man's own vernacular, which Excel- 
we will not call near, but most nearest to him. lence of 
Wherefore, if nearness be the seed of [503 "^^^^" 
friendship, as was said above, it is clear that it 
is amongst the causes of the love which I bear 
to my tongue, which is most near to me above 
the others. It was the abovesaid cause, namely 
that that is most closely united which at first 
has sole possession of the mind, that gave rise 
to the custom which makes first-born sons 
succeed alone, as the closer, and because closer, 
more loved. 

[603 Again its excellence makes me its /3. 
friend. And here you are to know that every 
excellence proper to a thing is to be loved in 
that thing ; as in masculinity to be well bearded, 
and in femininity to be well smooth of beard 
over all the face. As in a setter, good scent, 
and in a boarhound, good speed. And the 
more proper is the excellence the better is it to 
be loved ; wherefore, though every virtue is to 
be [703 loved in man, that is most to be loved 
in him which is most human ; and that is 
justice, which abides only in the rational or 
intellectual part, that is in the will. This is 
so much to be loved that, as the Philosopher 
says in the fifth of the Ethics, they who are its 
foes, as are robbers and plunderers, love it ; 
and therefore we see that its contrary, to wit 
injustice, is most hated; as [^803 treachery, 
ingratitude, forgery, theft, rapine, cheating and 
their likes. Which be such inhuman sins that, 
to shield himself from the infamy thereof, long 
usage alloweth that man may speak of himself, 
as was said above, and that he have leave to 


Its declare himself faithful and loyal. Of this virtue 
efficiency i shall hereafter speak more at length in the four- 
teenth treatise, and here leaving it I return to the 
matter in hand. That has been shown, then, 
to be the most proper [90] excellence of a 
thing which is most loved and praised in it ; 
and we must see in each case what that ex- 
cellence is. Now we see that in all matters 
of speech rightly to manifest the conception is 
the most loved and commended. This, then, 
is its prime excellence. And inasmuch as 
this excellence abideth in our vernacular, as 
• hath been shown above, in another chapter, it is 
clear that it is of the causes of the love [[loo^ 
which I bear to the said vernacular ; because, 
as already said, excellence is a cause that 
generates love. 

18. May be seen to ivr'tte. This is apparently Dante's 
form of reference when he is not quoting any specific 
passage from a work but is giving his impression of what 
an intelligent man may gather from his study of it. 
Compare II. 3 : 28 f., note, and II. 13 : 29. 

75, 76. Dante's memory appears to have misled him 
here as Aristotle does not quite say this. 

82. Inhuman. Yet inasmuch as they are the abuse of 
the specifically human sense of justice, they might, from 
another point of view, be regarded as specifically human. 
And this is more nearly the view taken in Inferno XI., 
see specially line 25. Compare the note at the end of 
the 'Temple Classics' Inferno, 

86 fF. Since justice was to be dealt with in the 
fourteenth treatise, which was also to give occasion for 
a special discourse on allegory (see II. 1:35, 3^)> '•^ '* 
clear that the beautifjil Ode XIII. was to have been its 
text. Gardner infers from Dante's words, to shield himself 
etc., that in this fourteenth treatise he would have ex- 
pressly defended himself against the charge of malversa- 
tion of public money brought against him in his sentence 
of exile. 



[(7) Moreover, the author has supreme obligations to 
Italian, for (i.) since language is the specific 
bond of human society, bringing contemporaries 
into relation with each other and linking the 
generations together, the specific language of a 
country is one of the determining influences to 
,if. which people of that country owe their very 
existence ; and so the author owes his existence 
in part to that Italian language which was the 
medium in which his parents lived and loved ; 
yi, and (ii.) it was Italian that introduced him to 
-jT, Latin, and therefore it is to Italian that he is 
ultimately indebted for his share of that know- 
ledge which is the distinguishing excellence of 
man. And further (5) community of interest 
binds him to Italian, for all his passion has been 
to give it stability and glory, so that if it be not 
honoured his life has failed ; and (e) the pene- * 
trating intimacy of his intercourse with Italian, 
which has entered into the very texture of his 
spiritual being, has confirmed his love of it. 
Hence he has every reason to love his native 
tongue ; and herewith his apology is complete. 
So now let the new light of this Italian tongue 
shine upon those who sit in darkness which no 
ray of the Latin tongue has reached !] 

Having told how these two things exist The 
in my own tongue, whereby I was made its food of 
friend — to wit, its nearness to myself and its friendship 
own excellence — I will tell how, by benefaction 
and harmony of study, and the good-will of 
long comradeship, the friendship has been con- 
firmed and fostered. 

I say first that I, in myself, have received the 7. 
greatest of benefactions from it. And there- 
fore [_io'] be it known that amongst all bene- 


Being factions that is greatest which is most precious 

and well- ^q him who receives it ; and nothing is so 

^"^o precious as that for the sake of which all the 

others are desired ; and all other things are desired 

for the perfection of him who desires them. 

i. ii. Wherefore, since a man hath two perfections — 

the first and the second (the first gives him being 

and the second gives him well-being), if my 

proper tongue hath been [20] the cause both 

of the one and of the other I have received the 

very greatest benefaction from it. And that it 

hath been the cause of my existence — if my 

being here at all did not establish it — may be 

briefly shown. 

i. May not there be many efficient causes with 
respect to one thing, though one of them be so 
in a higher degree than the others ? For the 
fire and the hammer are efficient causes of the 
knife, though the smith is so in chiefest [30J 
place. Now this my vernacular it was that 
brought together them who begat me, for by 
it they spoke ; even as the fire disposes the 
iron for the smith who is making the knife ; 
wherefore it is manifest that it took part in my 
begetting and so was a certain cause of my 

ii. being. Moreover, this my vernacular led me 
into the way of knowledge, which is our specific 
perfection ; inasmuch as by it 1 [[403 entered 
upon Latin, which was explained to me in it ; 
which Latin was then my path to further 
advance ; wherefore, it is plain, and is acknow- 
ledged by me, that it hath been my benefactor 
in the highest degree. ' '^"^'^ '•'' 

d. Also it hath been of one same purposef with 
me, which I can thus prove. Everything 


naturally studies its own preservation ; where- The 
fore, if the vernacular could in itself pursue any founda- 
purpose, it would study this preservation; ^"^cr°od°'ll 
[^50] this would be adapting itself to greater 
stability ; and greater stability it could not have 
save by binding itself in numbers and in rhymes. 
And this same study hath been mine, as is so 
manifest as to need no witness. Wherefore 
one same study hath been common to it and to 
me ; whence by this harmony our friendship 
hath been confirmed and fostered. 

Further, ours is the goodwill of (^603 com- e. 
radeship ; for from the beginning of my life I 
have abode in goodwill and communion with it, 
and have used it in pondering, in explaining 
and in questioning. Wherefore if friendship 
grows by comradeship, as is plain to the sense, 
it is manifest that it hath grown in me to the 
highest, since I have passed all my time in 
company with this same vernacular. Where- 
fore it appears that all the causes which can 
[_jo2 generate and foster friendship have com- 
bined for this friendship ; whence the conclusion 
that not only love but most perfect love for it, 
is that which I ought to have and which I have. 

So turning back our eyes, and gathering up 
the reasons already noted, it may be seen that 
this bread with which the viands of the odes 
written below must be eaten is sufficiently 
purged [80] from its blemishes, and from 
being made of oats ; wherefore it is time to 
set about serving the viands. This shall be 
that oaten bread whereby thousands shall be 
sated and my baskets shall be left full for me. 
This shall be the new light, the new sun, which 


Light in shall rise when the wonted sun shall set, and 
darkness ^^^\\ gjyg jjgjj^ jq them who are in darkness 

and in shadow as to the wonted sun, which 

shines not for them. 

16-44. See II. 14 : 26 ff., note. 

22,23. Of my being here, ttc. The text may be corrupt, 
and the interpretation is certainly doubtful. 
84. My baskets, etc. Compare I. i : 75. 

SO 99P 

• sn 



Voi eke intendendo il terzo del movete. 


Ye who by understanding move the third heaven hear- 

ken to the discourse which is in my heart for I may not 

tell it to any other, so strange it seeraeth me. 

'Tis the heaven which followeth your worth, gentle 

creatures that ye be, that draweth me into the state 

wherein I find me. [6] 

Wherefore the discoufie of tfadlife which I endure 

( z Meseems were worthily directed unto you ; therefore 

I pray that ye give me heed anent it. I will tell the 

wondrous story of my heart 

How the sad soul waileth in it, and how a spirit dis- 

courseth counter to her that cometh upon the rays of 

your star. [13} 


Is wont to be the life of my grieving heart a sweet 

thought that would take its way many a time to the 

feet of your Sire, 

Where it beheld a lady in glory of whom it discoursed 

to me so sweetly that my soul said ever : ' Fain would 

I go thither.' [19] 

Now one appears who puts him to flight 

And lords it over me with such might that my heart 

so trembles thereat as to reveal it in outward semblance. He 
makes me gaze upon a lady. 

And saith : ' Who would behold salvation heedfuUy let 
him look upon this lady's eyes if he fear not the anguish 

ofsighings.' [26] 

Findeth such an adversary as destroyeth him the 



humble thought that is wont to discourse to me of an 

angel who is crowned in heaven. 

The soul wails, so doth she still grieve thereat, and 

saith : ' O wretched me, how fleeth that tender one who 

hath consoled me.' [32] 

Of my eyes this afflicted one exclaimeth : 

' What hour was that wherein such lady looked upon 
them ! and wherefore did they not believe me concerning 

her? I ever said : Verily in her eyes 

Must he needs sta?id who slays my peers. And my 

perceiving it availed me nought against their gazing 

upon such an one that I am slain thereby.' [39] 


' Thou art not slain, only thou art dismayed O soul of 

ours, who dost so lament thee,' saith a little spirit of 

gentle love ; 

' For this fair lady, whom thou perceivest, hath so 

transformed thy life, that thiou art terrified, so cowardly 

hast thou become. ''"' 1 !' "! [^-j 

See how tender she is and humble, 

$ag6 and courteous in her greatness, and think hence- 

forth to call her lady : for, if thou deceive not thyself, thou 

shalt see 

Adornment of such lofty miracles, that thou shalt 

say: Love, very lord, behold thy handmaid ; do as 

pUaseih iA4«.' ,a:.A. / / [52] 

Jj lij-iiioo;!:; ; Tomata ■.:,\ii 

Ode t'tlxlieve that they shall be but rare whoishall 

rightly understand thy meaning, so intricate and knotty 

is thy utterance of it: 

Wherefore if perchance it come about . that thou take 
thy way into the presence of folk, ' who seem not 
rightly to perceive it"; [58] 

Then I pray thee to take heart again, 

And say to them, O my beloved lastling : ' Give heed 

at least how beautiful I am.' [61] 



[Of the four chief senses according to which a text 
may be expounded, and why it were (a) im- 
possible (for three reasons) and (i) irrational to 
make the allegorical or any other interpretation 
precede the literal. Wherefore the order of 
exposition will be first the literal, then the 
*^^' allegorical, with such incidental notices of the 
9ii moral and anagogical as may seem fitting.] 

Now that, by way of introductory discourse, my Of 
bread has been sufficiently prepared by my minis- the four 
tration in the preceding treatise, time calls and senses of 
requires that my ship should issue from the port. ^^ 
Wherefore adjusting the sail of reason to the 
breeze of my longing I enter upon the open sea, 
with the hope of a fair journey and of a whole- 
some port and praiseworthy, at the close of this 
my feast. But [^lo] that this my food be the 
more profitable, ere the first viands are served I 
would show how it must be eaten. 

I say that, as was told in the first chapter, 
this exposition must be both literal and alle- 
gorical ; and that this may be understood it 
should be known that writings may be taken 
and should be expounded chiefly in four i. ii. iii. iv. 
senses. [_'io] The first is called the literal, i. 
and it is the one that extends no further than 
the letter as it btands ; the second is called the ii. 
allegorical, and is the one that hides itself under 
the mantle of these tales, and is a truth hidden 
under beauteous fiction. As when Ovid says 
that Orpheus with his lyre made wild beasts 
tame and made trees and rocks approach him ; 
which would say that the wise man with the 


Of the instrument of his voice maketh cruel [30J hearts 
divers tender and humble ; and moveth to his will 

senses of g^^jj as have [not] the life of science and of 
art ; for they that have not the rational life are 
as good as stones. And why this way of hiding 
was devised by the sages will be shown in the 
last treatise but one. It is true that the theo- 
logians take this sense otherwise than the poets 
do, but since it is my purpose here to follow the 
method of the poets I shall take [40] the alle- 
gorical sense after the use of the poets. 
^ iii. The third sense is called moral, and this is 

*■•''"■' the one that lecturers should go intently noting 
throughout the scriptures for their own behoof 
and that of their disciples. Thus we may note 
in the Gospel, when Christ ascended the moun- 
tain for the transfiguration, that of the twelve 
apostles he took with him but three ; wherein 
the moral may be understood that [50] in the 
most secret things we should have but few 
iv. The fourth sense is called the anagogical, 
that is to say ' above the sense ' ; and this is 
when a scripture is spiritually expounded which 
even in the literal sense, by the very things it 
signifies, signifies again some portion of the 
supernal things of eternal glory ; as may be seen 
in that song of the prophet which saith that 
when the people of Israel came out of Egypt, 
[603 Judea was made whole and free. Which 
although it be manifestly true according to the 
letter is none the less true in its spiritual inten- 
tion ; to wit, that when the soul goeth forth out 
of sin, it is made holy and free in its power. 
And in thus expounding, the literal sense 


should always come first as the one in the The 
meaning whereof the others are included, and literal 
without which it were impossible and [_'Jo'] sense the 
irrational to attend to the others, and especi- ^j 
ally to the allegorical. It is impossible, be- 
cause in everything that has an inside and an a, b. 
outside it is impossible to come at the inside a. 
save we first come at the outside. Wherefore 
inasmuch as in the scriptures Qhe literal sensej 
is ever outside, it is impossible to come at the i. 
others without first coming at the literal. Again 
it is impossible, because [803 in every natural ii. 
and artificial thing it is impossible to proceed to 
the form without first duly disposing the subject 
on which the form must be impressed. Just as 
it is impossible for the form of gold to accrue if 
the material, to wit its subject, be not first 
digested and prepared ; or for the form of a chest 
to come if the material, to wit the wood, be not 
first disposed and prepared. Wherefore inasmuch 
as the literal \j)o\ meaning is always the subject 
and material of the others, especially the alle- 
gorical, it is impossible to come at the knowledge 
of the others before coming at the knowledge of 
it. Further, it is impossible because in every iii. 
natural or artificial thing it is impossible to 
proceed unless the foundation be first made ; as 
in a house, and as in study. Wherefore since 
demonstration is the building up of knowledge 
and the [^100] literal demonstration is the 
foundation of the others, especially the alle- 
gorical, it is impossible to come at the others 
before coming at this. 

Again, suppose it were possible it would be h. 
irrational, that is to say out of order, and would 


From therefore be carried on with much irksomeness 
known to a^d with much error. Wherefore, as saith the 
unknown pi^iiosopher in the first of the Physics, nature 
wills that we should proceed in due order in 
[^iio] our learning, to wit by proceeding from 
that which we know better to that which we 
know not so well. I say that nature wills it, 
inasmuch as this way of learning is naturally 
born in us. And therefore if the other senses 
are less known than the literal (which it is 
manifestly apparent that they are) it would be 
irrational to proceed to demonstrate them if the 
literal had not been demonstrated first. There- 
fore, [120] for these reasons, I shall always first 
discourse concerning each ode as to the literal 
sense of the same ; and after that I shall dis- 
course of its allegory, that is its hidden truth ; 
and from time to time I shall touch upon the 
other senses incidentally as shall suit place and 

14-16. Seel. 1; 127-132. 

19 fF. The four senses here spoken of are much more 
crisply distinguished in Epistle X. (to Can Grande), lines 
1 33-161 ; 'In evidence then of what has been said, be 
it known that the sense of the work [The Comedy] is not 
simple, but may rather be called polysemous, that is 
of many senses. For the sense that is gathered by the 
letter is one, and the sense that is gathered by the things 
signified by the letter another ; and the first is called 
literal, but the second allegorical or mystical ; which 
method of treatment, for its better explanation, may be 
considered with reference to this verse : — 

^When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob out of 
a barbarous people, Judea became his sa/ictif cation, Israel 
his po-ver. 

' For should we consider the letter only, the exit of the 
children of Israel from Egypt in the time of Moses is 
what is signified to us ; if the allegory, our redemption 


accomplished through Christ is signified to us ; if the 
moral sense, the conversion of the mind from the grief 
and misery of sin to the state of grace is signified to us ; 
if the anagogical, the exit of the holy soul from the 
slavery of this corruption to the liberty of eternal glory is 
signified. And although these mystic senses are called 
by various names they may all in general be called 
allegorical, since they differ from the literal or historical.' 
20-25. The text is that of a Paris MS. reported by 
Dr. Moore, but it does not seem very satisfactory. The 
phrase 'these tales' implies that some mention of the 
'tales' was made in defining the literal meaning. 

35, 36. Compare I, 12 : 86 f. andnote. 

36, 37. The theologians, for one thing, do not regard 
the literal sense of the scriptures as a ' beauteous 

44. Scriptures, The word is applied to the Latin 
poets as well as to the Bible. Compare Epistle X. to Can 
Grande, line 424. Both alike were freely 'moralised.' 

55, 56, Aquinas says that God has the power of fitting 
not only words but things themselves to a signification ; 
and thus in interpreting Scripture we must understand 
that the words may signify things, which things them- 
selves signify other things. So Dante says here that the 
literal meaning itself, by the things it signifies, may signify 
eternal things. 

63-65. This is a moral rather than an anagogical 
interpretation, and is given as such in the Epistle to Can 
Grande (see note above). 

79-88. The form, being that which makes the thing 
what it is, is here regarded as a kind of signet, stamped 
upon the material, which material is therefore the 
'subject,' or underlying somewhat, on which it is im- 
pressed. For the meaning of 'form' see II. 14: 140, 
note, p. 143. 

124-126. Instances in which the moral significance of 
texts is insisted upon may be found in II. 16: 50-58, 
III. i: 45, IV. 17: 106 ff. We may perhaps regard 
such passages as the conclusion of IV. 22 as instances of 
the anagogical interpretation, which always refers in 
some direct way to things of heaven. 



[The author tells how this ode arose out of the con- 
flict in his mind between the memory of the lost 
Beatrice and a growing love for the gentle lady 
whose pity sought to console him ; and how the 
victorious power of this last wrung from him a 
cry to the spirits from whose influence it came. 
Of the method of exposition by division to be 
followed throughout this work ; and of the 
division of this ode into (I. ) the invocation ; 
(II.) the tale of the internal conflict ; and (III.) 
the tornata or envoie.] 

The lady To begin with, then, I say that the star of 
of the Venus had twice already revolved in that circle 
winaow q£ j^gj.g ^jji(;jj makes her appear at even or at 
morn, according to the two divers periods, since 
the passing away of that blessed Beatrice who 
liveth in heaven with the angels and on earth 
with my soul, when that gentle lady, of whom I 
made mention in the end of the Vita [lo] NuovUf 
first appeared to my eyes accompanied with love, 
and took some place in my mind. And, as is 
told by me in the aforesaid book, more of her 
gentleness than of my choice it came to pass 
that I consented to be hers ; for she showed 
herself to be impassioned by so great pity for 
my widowed life that the spirits of my eyes be- 
came in supreme degree her friends. And 
when thus affected, they so [[203 wrought with- 
in me that my pleasure was content to put itself 
at the disposal of this image. But because love 
cometh not to birth and growth and perfect state 
in a moment, but needeth some certain time and 
nourishment of thoughts, especially where there 
be counter thoughts that impede it, it was neces- 


sary ere this new love became perfect that there Conflict 
should be much strife between the thought which of loves 
nourished it and that [^30j which was counter to 
it, and which still held the citadel of my mind 
on behalf of that glorified Beatrice. Where- 
fore the one was constantly reinforced from 
before, and the other by memory from behind. 
And the reinforcement from before increased 
day by day (which the other might not) as 
hindering me, in a certain sense, from turning 
my face backwards. Wherefore it seemed to 
me so strange, and also so hard [40]] to endure, 
that I might not sustain it ; and with a kind of 
cry (to excuse myself for the change wherein, 
methought, I showed lack of firmness) I 
directed my voice to that quarter whence came 
the victory of the new thought (and the same, 
being a celestial virtue, was most victorious), and 
I began to say, — 

Te ivho by understanding move the third heaven. 

Rightly to grasp the [_$0^ meaning of the 
ode it is necessary first to understand its divi- 
sions, so that it may thereafter be easy to per- 
ceive its meaning. And that there may be no 
need of setting these same words in front of the 
expositions of the other odes, I say that this 
same order which will be observed in this 
treatise it is my intention to follow in all the 

I say then that the ode before us is composed 
of three chief parts. The \_^o~\ first is the first I. 
verse of it, wherein are introduced, that they may 
hearken to that which I intend to say, certain 
Intelligences, or, to name them after the more 


Main customary use, certain Angels, which are set 

divisions over the revolution of the heaven of Venus, as 

II. its movers. The second is the three verses 

which follow after the first, wherein is shown 

that which was heard in the spirit within as 

III. between the divers thoughts. The third is the 

[^7oJ fifth and last verse, wherein a man is wont 

to address the work itself, as though to hearten 

it. And all these three parts in order are to be 

expounded after the fashion above expressed. 

On the astronomical questions raised in this and the 
following chapter, see Appendix, p. 440 fF. ; and on the 
relations between the narrative here and in the Vita 
Nuo-va, p. 432 fF. 

49-57. The divisions, which are generally felt as a 
mere disturbance by the reader of the Vita Nucma, and 
which seem needlessly elaborate even in the Con-vi-vio, may 
be regarded, in part, as a cumbrous method of punctuation. 
They are copied from the Aristotelian commentaries of 
Thomas Aquinas, where they are more in place. 


[(I.) {a) Of the spirits invoked, and (3) of the heaven 
which they move ; and first of the latter, {d) 
Of Aristotle's unripe theories, and the explana- 
tion thereof. Of Ptolemy's conclusive dis- 
coveries and the nine revolving heavens.] 

The The more clearly to discern the literal sense 

hteral (^bich is our present concern) of the first part, 

according to the above division, we must know 

I- who and how many are they who are summoned 

a, b. to hear me ; and what is this third heaven which 

I declare that they move. And first I will 

b. speak of the heaven, and then I will speak of 


those to whom I address myself. And albeit Number 
these things, in proportion to the reality, may be of the 
but little [10] known, yet what little human heavens 
reason sees of them hath more delight than the 
much and the certain concerning things whereof 
we judge [more fully^, according to the opinion 
of the Philosopher in that Of the Animals. 

I say then that concerning the number of the 
heavens and their position divers opinions have 
been held by many, although the truth hath at 
last been found. Aristotle, following [203 
only the ancient grossness of the astrologers, 
believed that there were no more than eight 
heavens, the extremest of which, containing all 
the sum of things, was that whereon the stars 
are fixed, to wit the eighth sphere ; and that 
outside of that there was no other. Moreover, 
he believed that the heaven of the sun came 
next after that of the moon, that is that it was 
the second from us. And this so erroneous 
opinion of his, whoso wills may see in the second 
Of Heaven and the [303 World, which is in the 
second of the Books of Nature. But truly he 
shows his excuse for this in the twelfth of the 
Metaphysics, where he lets us clearly see that 
he was just following the opinion of others where 
he had to speak of Astrology. 

Thereafter Ptolemy, perceiving that the eighth 
sphere had more than one movement, since he 
saw that its circle departed from the direct circle 
which turns the whole from east to [40^ west, 
constrained by the principles of philosophy 
(which of necessity will have a primum mobile of 
perfect simplicity) laid down the existence of 
another heaven, outside that of the stars, which 


Order should make that revolution from the east to the 
of the west. And I say that it is completed in about 
heavens four-and-twenty hours, that is in twenty hours 
and three hours and fourteen out of fifteen parts 
of another, roughly reckoning. So that accord- 
ing to him and according to the tenets of \j)0~\ 
astrology and philosophy (after the observation 
of these motions) the moving heavens are nine ; 
and their relative position is manifested and 
determined according as, by the arts of per- 
spective arithmetic and geometry, it is perceived 
by sense and reason ; and by further observation 
of the senses, as in the eclipse of the sun, it 
appears sensibly that the moon is beneath the 
sun ; and by the testimony of Aristotle, {_^o~\ 
who saw with his own eyes (as he tells us in the 
second Of Heaven and the World) the moon, 
being at the half, pass below Mars with her 
darkened side, and Mars remain hidden till he 
reappeared from the other shining side of the 
moon which was facing the west. 

28, 29. Whoso luills may see. See note on I. 12 : 18, 
19. Aristotle lays down the principle (Df Caelo, II. 10) 
that the ' proper motion ' of each sphere (see Appendix, 
p. 438 ff.) is slower in order of its remoteness from the 
primum mobile, and (as Averroes points out in the com- 
mentary) this would involve the ' so erroneous opinion ' 
mentioned in the text that the sun comes next after the 
moon, counting outwards from the earth. 

31-35. The passage referred to is in Metaphysics, 
XII. 8. Aristotle says that in such inquiries we must 
investigate some things ourselves and accept others from 
those who have looked into them, and where two authori- 
ties differ we must ' be grateful to both, and follow the 
more trustworthy.' 

36. Ptolemy, etc. See Appendix, p. 442. 

46-48. This corresponds, of course, to the sidereal (not 
the solar) day. 



[Of the order and succession of the nine revolving 

heavens. Of the empyrean, unknown to Gentile 

^*' science but affirmed by the Church, embracing 

r all space, existing not in space but in the mind 
of God, the abode of the blessed spirits, itself 
still but the source and goal of all motion by the 
longing it begets in the outmost revolving heaven. 
Of Aristotle's premonition and of the Psalmist's 
proclamation of the same. That the heaven of 
Venus is third amongst the ten. Of the relatively 
fixed poles of the inner revolving spheres, and the 
absolutely fixed poles of the outmost one. Of 
their equators and the virtue of the same. Of 
the epicycle of Venus and of the planet situate on 
the most virtuous region of the same. Of the 
sense in which there are ten heavens and the 
sense in which there are more.] 

And the order of their position is this: The Enumera- 
first in the enumeration is that wherein is the *J0" o^ 
moon ; the second is that wherein is Mercury ; . ^ 
the third is that wherein is Venus ; the fourth 
is that wherein is the sun ; the fifth is that 
wherein is Mars ; the sixth is that wherein is 
Jupiter ; the seventh is that wherein is Saturn ; 
the eighth is that of the fixed stars ; the ninth 
is that which is not perceived by the senses 
[[lo] save by that movement which was spoicen 
of above ; and it is called by many the crystal- 
line heaven, that is the diaphanous, or all trans- 
parent. But beyond all these the Catholics 
assert the empyrean heaven, which is as much 
as to say the heaven of flame, or the luminous 
heaven ; and they assert it to be immovable, 
because it hath in itself with respect to every 
part that which its matter demandeth. And 


The this is the cause of the [20]] primum mobile having 
empyrean the swiftest motion, because by reason of the 
most fervid appetite wherewith every part of 
this ninth heaven, which is next below it, 
longeth to be conjoined with every part of this 
divinest, and tranquil heaven, it revolves therein 
with so great yearning that its swiftness is scarce 
to be comprehended. But still and tranquil is 
the place of that supreme deity which alone 
completely perceiveth [[303 itself. This is 
the place of the blessed spirits, according as 
holy Church, which may not lie, will have it ; 
and Aristotle likewise seemeth to agree hereto 
(to whoso rightly understandeth) in the first Of 
Heaven and the World. This is the sovran 
edifice of the world, wherein all the world is 
included, and outside of which there is nought ; 
and it is not itself in space, but was formed only 
in the primal mind, which the Greeks call 
protonoe. [40] This is that * magnificence ' 
whereof the Psalmist spoke when he saith to 
God : ' Thy magnificence is exalted above the 
heavens.' And thus, gathering up what hath 
been discoursed, it appears that there are ten 
heavens, of which that of Venus is the third ; 
whereof mention is made in that passage which 
I am intent on expounding. 

And be it known that every heaven beneath 
the crystalline has two poles fixed [_'yO~\ with 
respect to itself; and the ninth has them firm 
and fixed, and immutable in every respect ; and 
each one, the ninth as well as the rest, has a 
circle which may be called the equator of its 
proper heaven ; which is equally distant in every 
part of its revolution from either pole, as he may 


see by the senses who revolves an apple or other Poles, 
circular thing. And this circle in each heaven equators 
hath [60] greater swiftness of motion than any ^ . 
other part in that heaven, as may be seen by 
whoso rightly considereth. And each part in 
proportion as it is nearer thereto moveth more 
rapidly, and in proportion as it is remote there- 
from and nearer to the pole more slowly ; 
because its revolution is smaller and must of 
necessity take place in the same time as the 
greater. I say, further, that in proportion as 
the heaven is nearer to the [70] equatorial 
circle, it is more noble in comparison to its 
poles ; because it hath more movement, and more 
actuality, and more life, and more form, and it 
touches more of the one which is above it, and 
by consequence hath more virtue. And so the 
stars of the starry heaven are fuller of virtue, as 
between themselves, the nearer they are to this 

And upon the hump of this circle in the 
heaven of Venus, of which we are at present 
treating, [^80'] is a spherule, which revolves on 
its own account in that heaven ; the circle of 
which the astrologers call an ' epicycle.' And 
even as the great sphere revolves Qon]] two poles 
so does this little one ; and so has this little one 
its equatorial circle ; and so is it more noble in 
proportion as it is nearer thereto ; and upon the 
arc or hump of this circle is fixed the most 
shining star of Venus. And although it be 
said that there are ten heavens, yet [90] accord- 
ing to very truth this number doth not embrace 
them all ; for this of which mention hath been 
made, to wit the epicycle whereon the star is 


The third fixed, is a heaven or sphere of Itself; and it 
heaven h^th not one same essence with that which 
beareth it, though it be more connatural to it than 
to the others, and is spoken of as one heaven 
with it, and the one and the other is called the 
heaven of the star. How the other heavens 
and the other stars be we are not at []ioo] 
present to treat ; let that suffice which hath 
been said of the truth of the third heaven, with 
which I am at present concerned and as to which 
all that is needful to us for the present purpose 
has been completely expounded. 

33, 34. It is Aristotle's consistent teaching that physical 
motion cannot be ultimately explained on physical prin- 
ciples, but implies and depends upon some immaterial 
existence ; for the only physical explanation of movement 
consists in showing how one body is moved by another, 
but this other body must itself be in motion, and therefore 
the problem remains exactly where it was. Therefore 
there must ultimately be something which moves a 
physical body without itself being in motion ; and this 
cannot be a material thing, and must therefore be of the 
nature of mind. It is in fact the deity, the immaterial 
principle on which heaven and all nature depend. The 
outmost heaven loves and longs for this immaterial or 
divine essence, and moves in obedience to that love and 
longing ; for motion, when not caused by a physical im- 
pulse, is the expression of unsatisfied longing. This 
heaven, then, is the primum mobile, or ' first thing cap- 
able of motion,' and it conveys motion to all else. The 
divine and immaterial principle, then, is, by the love and 
longing it inspires, the ultimate source of all motion. 
Compare Paradiso, I. 1-3 : 76-78, etc. In the passage 
to which Dante here refers (£)« Caelo, I, 9^ Aristotle 
has just attempted to prove that space itself must be 
limited, because * body ' cannot possibly be infinite, and 
therefore space, which is ' possibility of body,' cannot be 
infinite either ; nor can there be time there, since time is 
the succession of material movements. He then proceeds, 
* It is clear then that neither is there space nor vacuum 


nor time outside of it ; wherefore the nature of the 
things that are there is not spacial, nor doth time make 
them grow old ; nor is there any change of any of those 
things which are ranged above the outmost rotation, but 
they are unchangeable and passionless, enjoying the 
superlative existence, and passing in absolute self- 
sufficiency their eternal life.' More of like import 
follows. Dante might well consider such passages as 
this to be premonitions of the doctrine of the Church, 
for in fact the doctrine of the Church was no more than 
the elaboration of them. 

36-39. Compare Paradiso, XXVII. 109-114. 

42. Psalm viii, 2 : ' Sjuonlam elevata est magnijicentia 
tua super caelos.'' 

72, 73. The potentiality of a thing is actualised and the 
thing itself informed in proportion as it becomes or does 
what it is capable of being or doing Compare also 
Paradiso, V. 87, note. 


{{a) Of the intelligences (or angels) which move this 
heaven. How Aristotle seems to number the 
like beings after the number of the heavenly 
movements, and how Plato numbers them after 
the number of the kinds of things. How the 
Gentiles worshipped them as deities. How all 
these errors sprang from lack (a) of reasoning 
and (/3) of instruction, (a) How reason will 
have it (i.) that there be more of such beings 
contemplating than active, and (ii.) that in 
creating the same God should transcend such 
number as man hath power to conceive. Why 
it is no scandal that these reasons and others be 
not demonstrative.] 

Now that it has been demonstrated in the pre- The 
ceding chapter what this third heaven is, and movers 
how it is disposed in itself, it remains to expound '^• 
who they be who move it. Be it known, there- 


Of angels fore, firstly, that the movers thereof are substances 
sejunct from matter, to wit, Intelligences, which 
are vulgarly called Angels. And of these 
creatures, as of the heavens, divers [^loj have 
held divers opinions albeit the truth has been 
now found. There were certain philosophers, 
of whom Aristotle appears to be in his Meta- 
physics (although in the first Of Heaven and the 
World he incidentally appears to think other- 
wise), who believed that there were only so many 
of them as there were circulatings in the heavens, 
and no more ; saying that the rest would have 
been eternally in vain, without operation ; which, 
they held, was [20^ impossible, inasmuch as 
their being consists in their operation. Others 
were there such as Plato, a man of supreme 
excellence, who laid down not only as many 
Intelligences as there are movements of heaven, 
but just as many as there are kinds of things ; 
as all men one kind, and all gold another kind, 
and all riches another, and so throughout the 
whole ; and they would have it that as the In- 
telligences of the heavens are the generators of 
[303 the same, each of his own, so those others 
were the generators of the other things, and the 
exemplars each one of his own kind ; and Plato 
calls them Ideas, which is as much as to say 
Forms, and Universals. The Gentiles called 
them gods and goddesses, though they did not 
conceive them so philosophically as did Plato ; 
and they adored images of them, and made most 
magnificent temples for them ; for Juno, for 
example, whom 1^403 they called the goddess of 
power ; for Vulcan, whom they called god of fire ; 
for Pallas or Minerva, whom they called goddess 


of wisdom ; and for Ceres, whom they called Of 
goddess of corn. The which opinion is mani- contem- 
rested by the testimony of the poets, who from P**«'"*S 
time to time outline the fashion of the Gentiles 
both in their sacrifices and in their faith ; and 
it is also manifested in many ancient names, 
which survive either as names [^$0'] or as sur- 
names of places and of ancient buildings, as 
whoso will may easily discover. 

And although the above-mentioned opinions 
were furnished by human reason and by no small 
observation, the truth was not yet perceived, 
and this both by defect of reason and by defect a, /3. 
of instruction ; for even reason may perceive a. 
that the abovesaid creatures are in far greater 
number than are the effects which men [^603 are 
able to note. And one reason is this ; no one — i. 
neither philosopher, nor Gentile, nor Jew, nor 
Christian, nor any sect — doubts that either all 
of them, or the greater part, are full of all 
blessedness, or doubts that these blessed ones are 
in the most perfect state. And as, inasmuch as 
human nature, as it here exists, hath not only 
one blessedness but two, to wit that of the civil 
life and that [^70] of the contemplative life, it 
were irrational did we perceive those others to 
have the blessedness of the active that is the 
civil life, in guiding the world, and not that of 
the contemplative life, which is more excellent 
and more divine. And inasmuch as the one 
that hath the blessedness of guiding may not 
have the other, because their intellect is one and 
continuous, there must needs be others exempt 
from this ministry whose [SoJ life consists only 
in speculation. And because this life is the 


Of the more divine, and because in proportion as a 
number of thing is more divine it is more like to God, it 

angels jg manifest that this life is more loved by God ; 
and if it be more loved, its share of blessedness 
hath been more ample ; and if it be more ample, 
he hath assigned more living beings to it than 
to the other. Wherefore we conclude that 
the number of these creatures is very far in 
excess of what the effects reveal. And this 
is not counter [90] to what Aristotle seems 
to say in the tenth of the Ethics., to wit that 
the speculative life alone fits with the sejunct 
substances, for if we allow that the speculative 
life alone fits with them, yet upon the speculation 
of certain of these followeth the circulation of the 
heavens, which is the guiding of the world ; 
which world is a kind of ordered civility per- 
ceived in the speculation of its movers. The 
ii. second reason is tliat no effect is greater than 
its cause; for n^'-'^D ^^^ cause cannot give 
what itself hath not. Wherefore, since the 
divine intellect is the cause of everything, especi- 
ally of the human intellect, pt follows^ that the 
human intellect transcendeth not the divine, but 
is out of all proportion transcended by it ; so that 
if we, for the reason above given and for many 
others, understand that God could have made 
almost innumerable spiritual creatures, it is mani- 
fest that he hath indeed made this greater \_i 10] 
number. Many other reasons may be perceived, 
but let these suffice for the present. 

Nor let any marvel if these and other reasons 
which we may have for this belief are not 
brought to complete demonstration ; because for 
that very reason we should wonder at the 


excellence of these beings (which transcends the Seeing in 
eyes of the human mind, as saith the Philosopher blindness 
in the second of the Metaphysics), and should 
affirm their existence. For albeit we have no 
[[120]] perception of them by sense, wherefrom 
our knowledge hath its rise, yet is there in our 
intellect a kind of reflected glow of the light of 
their most vivid existence, in so far as we per- 
ceive the above said reasons and many others ; 
just as a man whose eyes are closed may affirm 
that the air is luminous, because of some certain 
glow, or as a ray that passes through the pupils 
of the bat; for even so are the eyes of our 
intellect closed, so long as [130] the mind is 
bound and imprisoned by the organs of our body. 

6, 7. Angels are beings (jub stances, compare I. 5 ; 3, 
note) essentially and eternally immaterial and separate 
or distinct (sejunct) from matter. Compare Purgatorio, 
XVIII. 49, 50, note. 

12-20. Inthe Metaf/iysics (XI. viii.), Aristotle elaborates 
the correspondence between the movements of the 
heavens and their immaterial movers. In the De Caelo 
(I. iii.) he appeals to the general conception of deities, 
entertained alike by Barbarians and Greeks, as consort- 
ing with his conception of an eternal and unalterable 
heaven, which is regarded as their seat. Perhaps this is 
the passage which Dante took as implying that Aristotle 
shared the general conception of an indefinite number of 
divine beings, but the inference seems hardly justified. 

21-34. The parallel between Plato's ' ideas,' the Aris- 
totelian ' forms ' and the scholastic ' universals,' is 
perfectly legitimate. The great controversy between the 
Realists and the Nominalists turned on the question of 
whether such general conceptions as 'fish' or 'man' 
corresponded to any real things, or whether these ' uni- 
versals ' were only names, not things. 

The mediaeval scholars were very imperfectly acquainted 
with Plato, the Timaus being the only one of his Dialogues 


to which they had access, in a Latin translation. Aquinas 
expressly declares that he called ' universal forms ' gods. 

34-51. Compare II, 6: 117-126; Paradiso, IV. 61- 
63 ; VIII. 1-9. This group of passages throws much 
light on Dante's attitude towards the Pagan religions. 
If the Pagan mythology was a misreading of the angelic 
influences we can understand how Dante could regard 
opposition to the heathen deities and worship of them as 
alike impious. Compare Inferno, I. 72, and innumerable 
passages of the type of Inferno, XIV. 46-72, or Purgatorio, 
I. 7-12, and the examples of punished pride in Purgatorio, 

50. Dante doubtless has in view such names as Camarte 
= ' House of Mars.* 

64. The reservation refers to the fallen angels. 

76, jj. The passage appears to mean that since the 
life of angels has no succession, but is one continuous 
actualising of their whole powers, it must follow that it 
has no complexity ; and consequently if an angel, by its 
active intellect, moves a heaven, though this may itself 
be a kind of speculation (see line 94), yet the direct con- 
templation of God would be thereby excluded. If this 
is the true interpretation of the passage, it is clear that 
Dante's conception of the angelic psychology had received 
indefinite expansion when he wrote the Paradiso, for 
there both the redeemed and the angels are thought of as 
contemplating all things in God — that is to say as perfect 
parts of the perfect whole. Though the angelic intellect 
is continuous its simplicity is reached not by excluding 
all objects of contemplation except one, but by fusing all 
objects of contemplation into one. Compare Paradiso, 

83, 84. Compare Paradiso VII. 73-75. 



[(j3) How instruction concerning these spiritual 
creatures, which they lacked of old, hath come 
to us through Christ and his secretary the 
Church. Of the three hierarchies and nine 
orders of angels, and what they severally con- 
template. Of them that fell. Of the movers 
of the heavens severally, and how they that 
move the heaven of Venus be of the Thrones, 
whose nature and influence is of love ; wherefore 
the ancients held Love to be the son of Venus. 
; Of the number of these same movers of the third 
heaven, and of a doubtful question thereanent. 

' Of the nature of their moving. ] 

It hath been said that by defect of instruction Truth 
the ancients perceived not the truth concerning about 
the spiritual creatures, albeit the people of Israel ^"ffcls 
were in part instructed by their prophets, through /3. 
whom, after many manners of speech and by 
many modes, God spoke to them, even as saith 
the Apostle. But as for us, we have been 
taught about this by him who came from him, 
by him who [^lo^ made them, by him who 
preserves them, to wit the emperor of the uni- 
verse, who is Christ, son of the sovran God, 
and son of the Virgin Mary (very woman, and 
daughter of Joachim and Anna), very man, who 
was slain by us ; whereby he brought us life. 
And he was the light which lightens us in the 
darkness, as says John the evangelist ; and he 
told us the truth of these things, which we 
might not know [^20] without him, nor see 
them as they are in truth. The first thing, and 
the first secret which he showed us thereanent, 
was one of the aforesaid creatures themselves ; 


Angelic which was that great ambassador of his who 
*"?'"' came to Mary, a young damsel of thirteen years, 

^^ ^®^ on the part of the holy king celestial. 

This our Saviour said with his own mouth 
that the Father could give him many legions of 
angels. When it was said to him that the 
Father had [^30^ given commandment to his 
angels to minister unto him and serve him, he 
denied it not. Wherefore it is manifest to us 
that these creatures exist in most extended 
number ; because his spouse and secretary, holy 
Church (of whom Solomon saith, ' Who is this 
that cometh up from the wilderness, full of those 
things that give delight, leaning upon her 
friend?') affirms, believes and preaches that these 
most noble creatures are, as it were, innumerable ; 
and she divides them into three hierarchies [403, 
which is to say three holy or divine principalities. 
And each hierarchy has three orders, so that 
the Church holds and affirms nine orders of 
spiritual creatures. The first is that of the 
Angels, the second of the Arch-angels, the 
third of the Thrones : and these three orders 
make the first hierarchy ; not first in order of 
nobility, nor in order of creation (for the others 
are more noble, and all were created at once), 
but first [[50] in the order of our ascent to 
their loftiness. Next come the Dominations, 
afterwards the Virtues, then the Principalities ; 
and these make the second hierarchy. Above 
these are the Powers, and the Cherubim, and 
above all are the Seraphim ; and these make the 
third hierarchy. And the number of the 
hierarchies and that of the orders constitutes a 
most potent system of their speculation. For 


inasmuch as the divine majesty is in three Their 
[60] persons, which have one substance, they contem- 
may be contemplated in three-fold manner. P ^ ^°" 
For the supreme power of the Father may 
be contemplated ; and this it is that the first 
hierarchy, to wit first in nobility and last in our 
enumeration, gazes upon; and the supreme 
wisdom of the Son may be contemplated ; and 
this it is that the second hierarchy gazes upon ; 
and the supreme and most burning love of the 
Holy C70] Spirit may be contemplated ; and 
this it is that the third hierarchy gazes upon : 
the which being nearest unto us gives us of the 
gifts which it receiveth. And inasmuch as 
each person of the divine Trinity may be con- 
sidered in three-fold manner, there are in each 
hierarchy three orders diversely contemplating. 
The Father may be considered without respect 
to aught save himself; and this contemplation 
the Seraphim do use, who see more of the 
[80] first cause than any other angelic nature. 
The Father may be considered according as 
he hath relation to the Son, to wit how he 
is parted from him and how united with him, 
and this do the Cherubim contemplate. The 
Father may further be considered according as 
from him proceedeth the Holy Spirit, and how 
he is parted from him and how united with him ; 
and this contemplation the Powers do use. And 
in like fashion may there be [[90] speculation of 
the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Wherefore it 
behoves that there be nine manners of con- 
templating spirits to gaze upon the light which 
alone seeth itself completely. And here is a 
word which may not be passed in silence. I 


Their say that out of all these orders some certain were 
action lost so soon as they were created, I take it to 
the number of a tenth part ; for the restoration 
of which human nature was afterward created. 

The revolving heavens, [loo^ which are nine, 
declare the numbers, the orders and the hier- 
archies ; and the tenth proclaimeth the very 
oneness and stability of God. And therefore, 
saith the Psalmist, ' the heavens declare the glory 
of God and the firmament proclaimeth the works 
of his hands.' Wherefore it is rational to 
believe that the movers of the moon be of the 
order of Angels ; and those of Mercury be 
Arch-angels ; and those of Venus be Thrones, 
the which Ciioj taking their nature from the 
love of the Holy Spirit make their work 
connatural thereto, to wit the movement of that 
heaven which is full of love. Whence the form 
of the said heaven conceiveth an ardour of 
virtue to kindle souls down here to love, accord- 
ing to their disposition. And because the 
ancients perceived that this heaven was the 
cause of love down here, they said that Love 
was the son of Venus; even as [^1203 Virgil 
testifieth in the first of the JEneid, where Venus 
saith to Love, ' my son, my power, son of the 
supreme Father, who heedest not the darts 
of Typhoeus ' ; and Ovid in the fifth of the 
Metamorphoses, when he tells how Venus said 
to Love, * my son, my arms, my might.' And 
it is these Thrones that be appointed for the 
guidance of this heaven, in no great number ; 
but the philosophers and the astrologers have 
diversely estimated it [130] according as they 
diversely estimated the circulation of the heavens, 


although all be at one in this that they be so Move- 
many as be the movements which the heaven ments of 
makes ; which movements are (according as we }y^ third 
find the best demonstration of the astrologers 
summarised in the book of the Co/lection of the 
Stars) three ; one according to which the star 
moves in its epicycle ; the second according as 
the epicycle moves together with its whole 
heaven, equally with that [^140^ of the Sun; 
the third, according as that same whole heaven 
moves, following the movement of the starry 
sphere, from west to east one degree in a 
hundred years. So that for these three move- 
ments there are three movers. Further, the 
whole of this heaven is moved and revolves, 
together with the epicycle, from east to west 
once every natural day. Whether which move- 
ment be of some Intellect or whether it be of the 
swaying of the primum [_i$o'2 mobile God know- 
eth ; for to me it seemeth presumptuous to judge. 
It is by understanding solely that these movers 
produce the circulation in that proper subject 
which each moveth. The most noble form of 
heaven, which hath in itself the principle of this 
passive nature, revolves at the touch of the mov- 
ing virtue which understandeth it ; and I mean 
by * touch ' not bodily touch, but virtue which 
directeth itself thereto. And these [160] 
movers be they to whom my speech is addressed, 
and to whom I make my demand. 

35-37. Song of Solomon viii. 5. S^uae est ista, quae 
ascend it de deserto, deliciis affluens, tnnixa super dilectum 

39-55. The order of the hierarchies here given is the 
same as is found in Brunetto Latini's Tresor, Book I. ' 


Part i. Chapter 12, from which Dante no doubt took it. 
It is not known whence Brunetto (on whom see Inferno, 
XV. 23, note^ himself derived it. The order adopted 
by Gregory (compare Paratiiso,XXVHl. 133 fF. and note) 
in the fourth book of the Dialogues is different. Dante 
expressly corrects both his own and Gregory's arrange- 
ment in the Paradiso. 

56-58. The syntax of this passage is a little doubtful, 
but the sense is not to be mistaken, namely, that there is 
an intimate connection between the number of the hier- 
archies and orders and the nature of the object of their 

121-123. The passage referred to is JEneld, I. 664, 665. 

' Nate, meae vires, mea magna potentia, solus, 
Nate, patris summi qui tela Typhoi'a temnis ; ' 

* My son, my power, my strength, my son who alone 
dost despise the Typhbian darts of the supreme Father.' 

Dante's translation is curiously incorrect. Compare 
Purgatorio, XXII. 37-42, note. 

134. The book referred to is the elementary astronomy 
of Alfraganus (ninth century) ; first translated into Latin 
from the Arabic in 1142. It was Dante's favourite text- 
book of Astronomy. The passage in question occurs in 
the fourteenth chapter. 

153. That proper iuhject. That is to say the special 
heaven ; the nature of which specially adapted it to underlie, 
or receive, the impress of each angel's intellectual act. 



[In what sort such beings hear, and how the author 
for two sufficient reasons calls upon them to 
hearken to the conflict within him. How he 
would win them to give heed. Why he calls the 
memory of Beatrice his ' soul ' and the thought 
of the new lady a ' spirit ' ; and why he declares 
this spirit to come upon the rays of the planet 
Venus. ] 

According as was said above in the third Angels 
chapter of this treatise, rightly to understand hearing, 
the first part of the ode before us it was needful P " 

Dv S6tlSC 

to discourse of those heavens, and of their 
movers ; and discoiu"sed it hath been in the 
three preceding chapters, I say then to those 
whom I have shown to be the movers of the 
heaven of Venus, 

Ye 'who by understanding 

(to wit with the intellect alone, as [lo] said 

move the third heaven^ hearken to the eSs- 


and I say not ' hearken ' as though they hear any 
sound ; for they have not sense ; but I say 
' hearken ' to wit with that hearing which they 
have, which is understanding by the intellect. 
I say : 

hearken to the discourse which is in my heart, 

to wit inside of me, for it hath not yet appeared 
without. Be it known that in all this ode, 
according to the one sense and the other, the 


Why and < heart ' is [^203 to be taken as the secret recess 
how ad- within and not as any other special part of the 
soul or of the body. 

When I have called them to hearken to that 
which I would say, I assign two reasons why I 
should fitly speak to them ; the one is the 
strangeness of my state, which since it hath not 
been experienced by other men might not be so 
well understood by them as by those beings who 
understand their own [30^ effects in their opera- 
tion. And this reason I hint at when I say. 

For I may not tell it to any other, so strange 
It seemeth me. 

The other reason is, that when a man receiveth a 
benefit or a hurt he should rehearse it to him 
who doth it to him, if he may, ere he rehearse 
it to another ; so that if it be a benefit he who 
receiveth it may show himself grateful towards 
the benefactor ; and if it be a hurt he may 
lead the doer by his gentle \_\o\ words to 
salutary compassion. And this reason I hint at 
when I say, 

'77j the heaven which folloiveth your 
ivorth, gentle creatures that ye be, that 

draiueth me into the state tuherein I find me, 

that is to say * your operation,' to wit * your 
circulation,' is it that has drawn me into my 
present state. Wherefore I conclude and say, 
that my speech ought to be to them, as was 
declared above ; and this I say here. 

Wherefore the discourse of the life ivhich 1 
endure meseems, \^^o'] were 'worthily directed 

unto you. 


And after assigning these reasons I pray them The soul 
to give heed, when I say, and the 

Therefore I pray that ye give me heed anent it. 

But inasmuch as in every manner of discourse 
the speaker should be chiefly intent on persuasion, 
— to wit on the propitiating those who hear him, 
which is the beginning of all other persuasions, 
as the rhetoricians know, — and since the most 
potent persuasion to [60] render the hearer 
attentive is the promise to tell novel and imposing 
things, — I add this persuasion, or propitiation, 
to the prayers which I have made for a hearing ; 
announcing to them my intention, which is to 
relate strange things to them, to wit the strife 
which there is in my mind ; and great things, to 
wit, the worth of their star. And this I say in 
these last words of this first part, 

/ will tell the wondrous story of my 

heart, how the sad [jO~\ soul waileth in 

it; and how a spirit di scours eth counter 

to her, that cometh upon the rays of your 

And for the full understanding of these words 
I say that this [spirit] is nought else than a 
frequent thinking upon and commending and 
propitiating of this new lady ; and this * soul ' is 
nought else than another thought, accompanied 
by assent, which, repelling the former, commends 
and propitiates the [80] memory of Beatrice in 
glory. But inasmuch as the final verdict of 
the mind, that is its assent, was still retained by 
that thought which supported the memory, I 
call it the * soul ' and the other a * spirit ' ; just 



The rays as when we speak of ' the city ' we are wont to 
of Venus mean those who are in possession of it, not those 
who are attacking it, albeit the one and the other 
be citizens. 

I say then that this spirit comes upon the 
' rays of the star,' because you are to know C903 
that the rays of each heaven are the path 
whereby their virtue descends upon things that 
are here below. And inasmuch as rays are 
no other than the shining which cometh from 
the source of the light through the air even 
to the thing enlightened, and the light is only 
in that part where the star is, because the rest of 
the heaven is diaphanous (that is transparent), I 
say not that this * spirit,' to wit this thought, 
cometh from their heaven in its totality [100] 
but from their star. Which star, by reason of 
nobility in them who move it, is of so great 
virtue that it has extreme power upon our souls 
and upon other aiFairs of ours, notwithstanding 
that it be distant, when nighest to us, one 
hundred and sixty seven times as far as it is to 
the middle of the earth, which is a space of 
3250 miles. And this is the literal exposition 
of the first part of the ode. 

19-22. Compare this emphatic declaration with f^ita 
Nuova, § 39 : 35-51 ; where in line 45 read intendo not 
non intendo. See further, Appendix, pp. 432-434. 

88-100. See III. 14 : 42-48, and note. 

95 f. And the light, etc. Compare IV. 19 : 30-32. 



[(II.) The second part of the ode tells (a) of the two 
adversaries (a, j3) and (6) of the contention of (a) 
the losing, and of (/3) the victorious combatant, 
(a) Why the author calls (a) a certain thought 
of Beatrice the life of his heart, and how one of 
the contending powers in him draws its strength 
therefrom, and whereto he is urged by the same ; 
and (|3) of the source and might of the other 
contending power, and whereto it urgeth him.] 

A SUFFICIENT understanding may be had, by the The 
above words, of the literal meaning of the first conflict 
part ; wherefore attention is to be turned to the II. 
second, wherein is declared what I experienced 
within in the matter of this conflict. And this 
part hath two divisions ; for in the first, to wit a. 
in the first verse, I tell the quality of these con- 
flicting thoughts according to their root, which 
was [lo] within me; then I tell that which ^. 
was urged by the one and the other conflicting 
thought, and so first that which the losing side 
urged ; and this is in the verse which is the 
second of this part and the third of the ode. 

To make evident, then, the meaning of the first a. 
division, be it known that things should be named 
from the distinguishing nobility of their form ; 
as man from reason, and not from sense nor from 
[20] aught else that is less noble. Hence 
when we say that a man is living, it should be 
understood that the man hath the use of his 
reason, which is his special life, and is the 
actualising of his most noble part. And there- 
fore he who severs himself from reason, and 
hath only use of his sensitive part, doth not live 


Life as a man, but liveth as a beast ; as saith that 
of the most excellent Boethius, • He liveth as an ass,' 
nearc — j jghtly, as I maintain, because thought is the 
proper act of the reason, since beasts think [^303 
not, because they have not reason. And I affirm 
this not only of the lesser beasts, but of those 
who have the semblance of man and the spirit 
of sheep or some other detestable beast. I say 
o. then, that 'the life of my heart' (that is my 
inner life) * was wont to be a sweet thought ' 
(' sweet ' is the same as ' suasive,' that is ' in- 
gratiated,' ' dulcet,' ' pleasing,' * delightsome '), 
namely, that thought which often went to the 
' Sire ' of them to whom I speak, [403 which 
is God ; that is to say that I, in thought, con- 
templated the kingdom of the blessed. And 
straightway I declare the final cause why I rose 
up there in my thought, when I say : 

Where it beheld a lady in glory ; 

to give to understand that I was certain (as I 
am, by her gracious revelation) that she was in 
heaven. Wherefore, many a time, pondering 
on her as deeply as I might, I went thither as 
though rapt. 

Then following on I tell the effect of [^50] 
this thought, to give to understand its sweetness, 
which was so great that it made me long for 
death, to go thither where it went ; and this I 
say here : 

Of whom it discoursed to me so sweet- 
ly that my soul said ever : ' Fain would I 
go thither J* 

And this is the root of one of the conflicting 


sides in me. And you are to know that I call The new 
it a * thought,' and not the * soul ' which rose to thought 
look upon this one in bliss, because it was the 
special [60] thought addressed to this act. 
' Soul,' as was said in the preceding chapter, 
means * thought in general, with assent.' 
Then when I say : 

Nonv one appears ivho putteth him tojl'tght, 

I tell of the root of the other conflicting side, /3. 
saying that even as this thought, spoken of above, 
was wont to be my life, so another appeareth 
which maketh it cease. I say putteth him * to 
flight * to show C70] that this is an adversary, 
for naturally one adversary flees the other ; and 
the one that flees shows that it is by defect of 
valour that it flees. And I say that this thought, 
which newly appears, has power to lay hold of 
me, and to conquer the whole soul, saying that 
it so lords it that • the heart,' that is my in- 
ward self, * trembles,' and it is revealed ' without ' 
by a certain changed semblance. 

[80] Following on I show the power of this 
new thought by its efi^ect, saying that it maketh 
me gaze upon * a lady ' and saith flattering words 
to me, that is discourseth before the eyes of my 
intellectual affection the better to draw me over, 
promising me that the sight of her eyes is its 
weal. And the better to gain this credence 
with the experienced soul, it says that the eyes 
of this lady are not to be looked upon by \j^o~] 
any who fears ' anguish of sighs.' And this is 
a fine figure of rhetoric, when there is the out- 
ward appearance of depreciating a thing, and the 
inward reality of embellishing it. This new 


Its subtle thought of love could not better draw my mind 
pleading to consent than by so deeply discoursing of the 
virtue of that lady's eyes. 

25 ff. Compare IV. 7 : 102 ff. 

42. Final cause. That is to say the object for which a 
thing is done. Thus health is the ' final ' cause of my 
talcing exercise, but exercise is the 'efficient' cause of 
my keeping my health. 


[(^) Why the victorious combatant is to speak last. 
Why the spirits of Venus take this part rather 
than that. A digression on immortality and on 
Beatrice in bliss.] 

The Now that it has been shown how and why love 
soul s ^gg born, and the conflict which distracted me, 

" it is meet that we proceed to unveil the meaning 
of that part wherein divers thoughts fight within 
b. me. I say that it is meet first to speak on the 
side of the soul, that is to say the ancient 
thought, and then of the other ; for this reason, 
that that upon which the speaker doth purpose 
to lay chiefest [[lo^ stress should ever be 
reserved for the last ; because that which is last 
said doth most abide in the mind of the hearer. 
Wherefore since it is my purpose to speak and 
to discourse more fully of that which the work 
of those beings whom I address, makes, than of 
that which it unmakes, it was reasonable first to 
speak and discourse of the condition of that side 
which was being destroyed, and then of that 
side which was being produced. 


[20] But here arises a difficulty which is not Of J 

to be passed over without explanation. Since Beatrice! 
love is the effect of these Intelligences whom I ^^^^^^ 
am addressing, and the former thought was book 
love as much as the latter, someone may ask 
why their power destroys the one and 
produces the other ; whereas it should rather 
preserve []than destroy] the former, for the 
reason that every cause loves CS^D ^^^ 
effect, and loving it preserves it. To this 
question the answer may easily be given ; 
to wit, that their effect is indeed love, as hath 
been said, and inasmuch as they cannot preserve 
it save in those objects which are subject to 
their circulation, they change it from that region 
which is outside their power to that which is 
within it ; that is to say, from the soul which 
has departed from this life to the soul which is yet 
in it ; just as human [40] nature transfers its 
preservation in the human form from father to 
son, because it may not perpetually preserve its 
effect in the father himself. I say ' its effect,' 
inasmuch as the soul united with the body is in 
truth its effect ; for the soul which is parted 
endureth perpetually in a nature more than 
human. And so is the problem solved. 

But inasmuch as the immortality of the [50] 
soul has here been touched upon, I will make a 
digression, discoursing thereof, for in such dis- 
course will be a fair ending of my speech con- 
cerning that living Beatrice, in bliss, of whom I 
propose to speak no further in this book. And 
by way of preface I say that of all stupidities 
that is the most foolish, the basest, and the most 
pernicious, which believes that after this life 



Universal there is no other ; for if we turn over all the 
testimony []6o] scriptures both of the philosophers and of 
° ^"^?5' the other sage writers, all agree in this that 
within us there is a certain part that endures. 
And this we see is the earnest contention of 
Aristotle, in that Of the Soul, this the earnest 
contention of all the Stoics, this the contention 
of Tully, especially in that booklet Of Old Age ; 
this we see is the contention of every poet who 
has spoken according to the faith of the Gentiles ; 
this Q70]] the contention of every religion, Jews, 
Saracens, and Tartars, and all others who live 
according to any law. So that if all of them 
were deceived there would follow an impossi- 
bility which it would be horrible even to handle. 
Everyone is assured that human nature is the 
most perfect of all other natures here below ; 
and this is denied of none ; and Aristotle 
averreth it when he saith in the twelfth Of the 
Animals that man is [80] the most perfect of 
all the animals. Whence, inasmuch as many 
living creatures are entirely mortal, as are the 
brute beasts ; and are all, so long as they live, 
without this hope, to wit of another life ; if our 
hope were vain the flaw in us would be greater 
than in any other animal ; because there have 
been many ere now who have surrendered this 
life for the sake of that ; and so it would follow 
that the most \j)o~\ perfect animal, to wit man, 
was the most imperfect, which is impossible ; 
and that part, to wit the reason, which is his 
chief perfection, would be the cause to him of 
having this greater flaw ; which seemeth a 
strange thing indeed to aver. Further it would 
follow that nature had set this hope in the 


human mind in opposition fo herself, since we The 
have said that many have hastened to the death testimony 
of the body, for to live in the other [loo] life; o^ Christ 
and this is also impossible. 

Further we witness unbroken experience of 
our immortality in the divinations of our dreams, 
which might not be if there were not some 
immortal part in us ; inasmuch as the revealer, 
whether corporeal or incorporeal, must needs be 
immortal if we think it out subtly (and I say 
' whether corporeal or incorporeal ' because of 
the diversity of opinion which I find [^iio^ in 
this matter) and that which is set in motion, or 
informed, by an immediate informer must stand 
in some ratio to the informer ; and between the 
mortal and the immortal there is no ratio. 

And further we are assured of it by the most 
truthful teaching of Christ, which is the way, 
the truth and the light ; the way, because in it 
we advance unimpeded to the blessedness of this 
very immortality ; the truth, because it suffereth 
no error ; the light, because it lighteth us [1203 
in the darkness of earthly ignorance. This 
teaching, I say, assureth us above all other 
reasons ; because he hath given it to us who 
seeth and measureth our immortality, the which 
we ourselves may not perfectly see, so long as our 
immortal part is mingled with our mortal part ; 
but by faith we see it perfectly, and by reason we 
see it with a shadow of obscurity, which cometh 
about because of the mingling of the mortal 
Q1303 with the immortal. And this should be 
the most potent argument that both the two 
exist in us ; and so I believe, so aver, and so am 
assured, of the passage after this life to another 


Beatrice better life, where this lady liveth in glory, of 
in heaven whom my soul was enamoured when I strove in 
such fashion as shall be told in the following 

30. Preserves tt. Moore's text is salva quel altro, but 
the ' altro ' seems to destroy the sense. 

44. Its effect. The angelic or heavenly influences 
have not control over the soul as such ; but they can 
exercise an influence on the human being, body and soul, 
during the earthly life. Compare Purgatorio, XVI. 73-8 1 . 
The whole sum of natural influences upon man is in- 
cluded, and as it were personified, in ^ human nature,' 
Compare I. 7: 53-57. ,j 

52-55. Compare, however, II. 13: 5, 6, etc. , 

56. Stupidities, or, as Miss Hillard has it, idiocies. 
The Italian is bestialitadi. There is no specific connec- 
tion between the particular opinion which Dante is here 
denouncing and the term hestialita. Thus in IV. 14 ; 
loi-iio, he declares of a silly argument as to nobility, 
which he puts into the mouth of his adversary, that the 
natural answer to such a hestialita would be given with a 
dagger. Hence the inference that when I>ante speaks of 
hestialita in Inferno, XI. 83, he is referring specially to 
the heretics who denied the immortality of the soul is 
quite unwarranted. Since reason is the special charac- 
teristic of man, a man without reason is beast-like. 
Thus the most general meaning of bestialitade, as illus- 
trated in the two passages from the Con-vi-vio just 
mentioned, is 'stupidity.' Compare the French betise. 
The word occurs elsewhere in various narrower significa- 
tions, but always in contrast to some specifically human 
characteristic or institution. Thus in Purgatorio, XXVI. 
82-87, '^ i* mtA for transgression of the specifically 
human law of marriage; and in Inferno, XI. 83, it is 
used (following the Latin translation of Aristotle's 
technical term OijpiirrTjs) to signify the absence, or viola- 
tion, of tastes and impulses natural to man, and so for 
all kinds of monstrous passions and offences, 

74. I understand the reference to be not to any 
suppressed inference, but to that which is drawn out in 
the following sentences ; but if this is so, the syntax is a 
little strange. 


101-113. The argument (if such it can be deemed) 
appears to be that when our senses are dulled in sleep we 
are given the power of receiving revelations, which revela- 
tions are clearly made to us by spiritual and immortal 
beings (though possibly they may assume some corporeal 
shape for the occasion), and since these spiritual beings 
are themselves immortal and by their action directly 
actualise, or inform, our capacity for such revelations, it 
follows that there must be in the perceiving self a some- 
thing akin to, or commensurable with, the immortal 
being that acts upon it. Cicero, De Divinatior.e, I. 30, 
51, dwells upon (though he does not accept) the 
doctrine of the prophetic significance of dreams, and 
bases an argument (differing however from Dante's) 
for the immortality of the soul upon this pheno- 
menon. The question whether angels assume a bodily 
form when they appear to men, and, generally, what is 
the precise nature of theophanies, is discussed in 
Augustine's third book, De Trinitate. 


[(a) The complaint of the soul when the old thought 
is attacked by the new. The soul accuseth the 
eyes and declareth them guilty of her death.] 

Returning to the subject, I say that in this Defence 
verse which begins : of the 

Findeth such an adversary as destroyeth him, thought 
I intend to reveal what my soul discoursed within 
me, that is to say the discourse of the ancient a. 
thought in opposition to the new. And first I 
briefly reveal the cause of her woeful speech, 
when I say : 

Findeth such an adversary as destroyeth 
htm^ the humble thought that is ivont 

[] 1 03 to discourse to me of an angel who 

is crozvned in heaven. 


The soul This is that special thought of which it is said 
■"^^s above that it was wont to be the h'fe of the 
grieving heart. 

Then when I say : 

The soul ivalls, so doth she still grieve 

I show that my soul is still on its side, and 
speaks with sadness ; and I say that she speaks 
words of lamentation, as though amazed at the 
sudden change, saying : 

Oh []2o]| ivretched me ! hoivjleelh that 

tender one nvho hath consoled me. , 

She may rightly say ' consoled,' for in her great 
loss this thought, which would ascend to heaven, 
had given her great consolation. 

Then afterwards, in her excuse, I say that all 
my thought, to wit my * soul,' of whom I use 
the phrase * this afflicted one,' turns upon the eyes 
and denounces them ; and this is manifested 
here ; 

Of my (yes this afflicted one exclaimeth. Q303 

i. ii. iii. And I tell how she says three things of them, 
i. and against them ; the first is that she curses the 
hour when this lady looked upon them. And 
here be it known that though many things may 
pass into the eye at the same time, yet the one 
which comes along the straight line into the 
centre of the pupil is the only one that is really 
and truly seen, and that stamps itself upon the 
imagination. And this is because the nerve 
along which the visual spirit runs \_^o~\ faces in 
this direction ; and therefore one eye cannot 


really look upon another without being seen The soul 
by it ; for just as the one which looks receives accuses 
the form in the pupil along the straight line, so ® ^ 
along that same straight line its form proceeds 
into the one whereon it is looking : and many 
times it is in thus directing the straight line that 
his bow is discharged against whom all arms are 
light. Wherefore when I say that 

such lady looked upon them {_$0~\ 

it is as much as to say that her eyes and mine 
looked upon one another. 

The second thing that she saith is that she ii. 
rebukes their disobedience, when she saith : 

j4nd ivherefore did they not believe me con- 
cerning her P 

Then she proceeds to the third thing, and iii- 
says that the reproach is not hers, as though she 
had not foreseen, but theirs in that they did not 
obey ; wherefore she says that from time to time, 
discoursing of this lady, she said, ' In her eyes 
must [60] needs reside a power over me, were 
the path of access open to it ' ; and this she saith 
here : 

/ ever said : ' Verily In her eyes must 

he needs stand ivho slays my peers.^ 

And in truth we are to believe that my soul 
recognised its own disposition, prone to receive 
the efficacy of this lady, and therefore feared 
her ; for the efficacy of the agent is apprehended 
in the duly disposed patient, as saith the Philo- 
sopher in the second Of the Soul. And therefore 
if wax had the spirit of fear, it would more [jo'} 


The greatly dread coining into the ray of the sun than 
soul's pre- would a stone; because its disposition receiveth 
sentiment j^, j^j ^^^^.^ potent operation. 

Finally the soul makes manifest in her dis- 
course that their presumption was perilous, when 
she saith : 

Jnd my perceiving it availed me 
nought against their gazing upon such an 

one that I am slain thereby. 

She means, from looking there upon him of 
whom she has before said, that [[So] he ' slays 
my peers ' ; and so she ends her words, to which 
the new thought answers as shall be set forth in 
the following chapter. 

67. The Latin words pati, patkns, pass'io are all used 
.. for the person or thing in any way acted upon. Thus 
patient is opposed to agent, in its full extent, and passion 
includes almost any experience or state of mind which 
cannot be regarded as action. In the sequel of this trans- 
lation passio is frequently rendered by emotion, as in II. 


[()3) The new thought would (i.) comfort and revive 
the soul, and then (ii.) lead her to the service of 
the new lady, by bidding note in her two things 
that should remove fear and three that should 
win love.] 

The new The meaning has been expounded of that part 

thought wherein the soul speaks, to wit the ancient 

thought which was being destroyed. And now, 

i8. in sequence, the meaning should be explained 


of the part wherein the new and adverse thought Con- 
speaks. And this part is all contained in the fidence of 
verse which begins : thought 

Thou art not slain. 

Which part, that it may be rightly understood, 

is to be divided into two, for in [^10] the first i. ii. 

part which begins : 

Thou art not slain, and the rest, 

he proceeds to say (attaching himself to her two 
final words), * it is not true that thou art slain, but i. 
the reason that it seemeth thee that thou art 
slain is a certain dismay wherein thou art basely 
fallen, because of the lady who hath appeared to 
thee.' And here be it noted that, as Boethius 
saith in his Consolation, * no sudden change of 
things Cometh to pass without ^20] some certain 
running asunder of the mind.' And this is the 
meaning of the reproof made by that thought. 
And he is called a ' little spirit of love ' to give to 
understand that my assent was swaying towards 
him ; and thus what follows may be better under- 
stood and his victory recognised, since he says 
already : 

soul of ours, 

making himself her familiar. 

Then, as was said, he gives command as to ii. 
what this soul that he reproves is to do to come 
(^303 to this lady, and he thus discourses to her : 

• fc ''^^ See how tender she Is and humble. 


Now these are two things which are the proper 
remedy for fear, whereby the soul was seen to 


Of tender- be impassioned, and, especially when united, they 
ness beget good hope concerning a person ; and chiefly 
courteCT '^^"^i^fo^ss, which maketh every other excellence 
glow with its light. Wherefore, Virgil, speaking 
of ^neas, calls him tender as his greatest praise, 
and tenderness is not [40] what the common herd 
suppose it to be, namely, grieving at another's 
woe, which is rather a special effect of it which 
is called pity, and is an emotion. But tender- 
ness is not an emotion, but rather a noble dis- 
position of mind, ready to receive love, pity and 
other charitous emotions. 
Then he saith, see also how 

sage and courteous in her greatness 

she is. Here he mentions [50] three things, 
which, amongst things which we have power to 
acquire, most chiefly make a person pleasing. 
He says ' sage.' Now, what is more beautiful 
in woman than to be wise ? He says ' courteous.' 
Nothing is more becoming in woman than 
courtesy. And let not the wretched vulgar be 
deceived as to this word also, thinking that 
courtesy is no other than openhandedness, for 
openhandedness is a special form of courtesy, 
and not courtesy in general. Courtesy (^60] 
and honour are all one, and because in courts of 
old time virtuous and fair manners were in use 
(as now the contrary), this word was derived 
from courts, and * courtesy ' was as much as to say 
* after the usage of courts.' Which word, if it 
were now taken from courts, especially of Italy, 
would mean nought else than baseness. He 
says < in her greatness.' Temporal greatness, 
which is here [70]] intended, is then most 


comely when accompanied by the two aforesaid The 
excellencies, because it is the light which brings soul s 
out with clearness the good in a person and its mistress 
opposite. And how much wisdom and how 
much virtuous disposition remains concealed by 
not having this light, and how great madness 
and how great vices are exposed to view by 
having this light. Better were it for the 
wretched magnates, mad, foolish and vicious,- ^'l^^O 
to be in base estate, for so neither in [SoJ the 
world nor after their lives' end would they be 
infamous. Truly it is for them that Solomon 
saith in Eccleslastes : 'Another most grievous 
infirmity have I seen beneath the sun, to wit 
riches kept to the hurt of their master.' Then 
in sequence he lays it upon her (to wit upon 
my soul) that she is henceforth to call her her 
lady, promising her that therefrom she will have 
much solace when she shall be aware of her 
graces ; and this [90] he saith here : i 

For if thou dec five not thyself thou shalt see. 

Nor does he speak of aught else even to the end of 
this verse. And here endeth the literal meaning 
of all that I say in this ode addressing these 
celestial intelligences. 

1 1 . He^ namely the ' thought.' 

39. Tendernets. The Italian is pieta, 

57. The Italian cortesia would in many respects have 
been better translated ' liberality ' or ' generosity ' than 
' courtesy,' but it was necessary to adopt the latter in 
order to preserve the etymological connection with court. 



[(III. ) Of the tornata. Its musical origin and its use 
by the author for indirect address to his readers. 
Wherein the excellent meaning of this ode was 
concealed and wherein its beauteous form was 
openly displayed.] 

Of the Finally (as the text of this comment said above, 
tornata when dividing out the chief parts of this ode), I 
turn me with the face of my discourse to the 
III. ode itself, and speak to it. And in order that 
this part may be the more fully understood I say 
that generally, in every ode, it is called the 
tornata, because the poets who were first [loj 
used to make it, did so in order that when the ode 
had been sung they should return to it again 
with a certain part of the air. But I seldom 
made it with this intention ; and, that folk might 
perceive this, I seldom composed it after the 
arrangement of the ode, in point of numbers, 
which is essential to the music ; but I made it 
when there was need to say something for the 
adornment of the ode outside of its own purport ; 
as [203 may be seen in this and in the others. 
And therefore I say, for the present turn, that 
the excellence and the beauty of every discourse 
are separate and diverse the one from the other ; 
for its excellence lies in its meaning, and its 
beauty in the adornment of the words ; and borh 
the one and the other give delight ; although 
the excellence is most delightsome. And so, 
since the excellence of this ode was difficult to 
perceive, because of the divers (^30] persons 
who are introduced as speaking, wherein many 


divisions are needful, and since the beauty was Of pre- 
easy to perceive, meseemed it was for the behoof sumptu- 
of the ode that folk should pay more heed to its SyQ-jf^J. 
beauty than to its excellence. And this it is ment 
that I declare in this part. 

But inasmuch as it often comes to pass that 
admonishment seems presumptuous under certain 
conditions, the rhetorician is wont to speak [40] 
indirectly to a man, addressing his words not to 
him on whose account he is speaking, but to 
another. And this method is in fact observed 
in this instance, for the words are addressed to 
the ode and their purport to men. I say, then : 

Ode ! I believe that they shall be but rare, 

that is to say few, who * rightly understand ' 
thee, and I tell the reason, which is twofold. 
First because thy speech is ' intricate ' (I call it 
' intricate ' for the reason that [^50] has been 
said) ; and secondly because thy speech is 
' knotty ' (I call it ' knotty ' with reference to 
the strangeness of the meaning). Now after- 
wards I admonish it, and say : 

If perchance it come alout^ 

* that thou go ' where are * folk ' who seem to 
thee to be perplexed by thy discourse, be not 
thou dismayed ; but say to them : * Since ye per- 
ceive not my excellence, give heed at least to my 
beauty.' For herein I aim at saying nought else 
(as declared above) save : [60] ' O men, who ;*'-^ 
cannot perceive the meaning of this ode, do not 
therefore reject it ; but give heed to its beauty 
which is great, both in virtue of syntax, which 
pertains to grammarians ; and in virtue of the 


Of excel- ordering of the discourse, which pertains to 
lence and rhetoricians ; and by virtue of numbers in its 
beauty p^j.j.g^ which pertains to musicians. Which 
things may be seen to be beautiful in it by him 
who giveth good heed. And this is all the Qyo] 
literal meaning of the first ode, which is signified 
by the first-served dish spoken of above. 

15. If apart of the air to which the successive stanzas 
had been sung was to be repeated in the tcrnata, the 
number of syllables in the several lines of the latter must, 
of course, correspond line for line with a succession of 
lines in some portion of the stanza ; and Dante says that 
as a rule he deliberately avoided this coincidence in 
order to impress upon the reader that his purpose in the 
tornata was dictated by other considerations than those of 
musical effect. It should be noted, however, that 
many of Dante's odes conform to the usual practice ; 
and in the majority of them the tornata could be sung to a 
repetition of a part or the whole of the air of the stanza. 


Turning to the true or inner meaning of the ode, the 
author tells how, when mourning for Beatrice, he 
found consolation in Boethius and Tully, and how 
thereupon this love of Philosophy stole into his 
heart and obscured the memory of Beatrice. 
Wherefore he called in dismay upon the powers 
that move the third heaven.] 

The Now that the literal meaning has been adequately 

allegory explained, we are to proceed to the allegorical 

and true exposition. And therefore, beginning 

again from the beginning, I say that when I 

/. lost the first delight of my soul, whereof mention 

is made above, I was pierced by so great 


sorrow that no comfort availed me. Yet after Of con- 
a certain time [[loj my mind, which was casting solation 
about to heal itself, made proof (since neither 
my own consolation nor that of others availed) 
to fall back upon the manner which a certain 
disconsolate one had erst followed to console 
himself. And I set myself to read that book 
of Boethius, not known to many, wherein, a 
captive and an exile, he had consoled himself. 
And hearing further that Tully had written 
another book wherein, treating Of Friendship, 
he had touched upon words of the {_2o^ con- 
solation of Lelius, a man of highest excellence, 
on the death of Scipio his friend, I set myself 
to reading it. And although it was at first 
difficult for me to enter into their meaning, 
finally I entered as deeply into it as my com- 
mand of Latin, and what little wit I had, 
enabled me to do ; by which wit I already 
began to perceive many things as in a dream ; 
as may be seen in the Fita Nuova. 

[^30]] And as it is wont to chance that a man 
goeth in search of silver and beyond his purpose 
findeth gold, the which some hidden cause pre- 
sents, not, I take it, without divine command ; 
so I, who was seeking to console myself, found 
not only a cure for my tears, but words of 
authors, and of sciences, and of books, ponder- 
ing upon which I judged that Philosophy, who 
was the lady of these authors, of these sciences, 
and of these books, [^403 was a thing supreme ; 
and I conceived her after the fashion of a gentle 
lady, and I might not conceive her in any 
attitude save that of compassion ; wherefore the 
sense for truth so loved to gaze upon her that I 


Growing could scarce turn it away from her ; and im- 
ioveior pelled by this imagination of her, I began to go 
soohv w^h^'"^ ^h^ ^^^ ^^ ^^^y truth revealed, to wit, to 
the schools of the religious orders, and to the 
disputations of the philosophers ; so that in a 
short time, I suppose some [50] thirty months, 
I began to feel so much of her sweetness that 
the love of her expelled and destroyed every 
other thought. Wherefore, feeling myself 
raised from the thought of that first love even 
to the virtue of this, as though in amazement I 
opened my mouth in the utterance of the ode 
before us, expressing my state under the figure 
of other things ; because rhyme in any ver- 
nacular [603 was unworthy to speak in open 
terms of the lady of whom I was enamoured ; 
nor were the hearers so well prepared as to have 
easily apprehended straightforward words ; nor 
would they have given credence to the true 
meaning, as they did to the fictitious ; and, 
accordingly, folk did, in fact, altogether believe 
that I had been disposed to this love, which 
they did not believe of the other. I began 
therefore to say : 

Te <who hy understanding move the third heaven 

\jo~\ And since, as has been said, this lady 
was daughter of God, queen of all, most noble 
and most beauteous Philosophy, we are to con- 
a. b, sider who were these movers, and this third 
b. And first of the third heaven, according to 
the order already observed. And there is no 
need here to proceed to dividing and expounding 
text by text ; for by turning the fictitious words 


from their sound to their import the exposition From 
that has already been made will adequately literal to 
explain this present [80]] meaning. allegon- 

On the general question of the relation of the literal to 
the allegorical meaning of this ode see Appendix, p. 432 ff. 
In this and the following treatise the marginal notation 
to the allegorical interpretation will repeat the notation 
to the literal interpretation of the corresponding passages, 
substituting /. CI, etc., for I. a, etc. 

14, 15. Not knoTvn to many. Seeing that in the middle 
ages the Consolation of Boethius was a very popular and 
well-known book, this phrase has given rise to much 
speculation. Perhaps Dante only means that few people 
penetrate its meaning as he did. The whole passage 
undoubtedly implies that Dante's graver studies were 
subsequent to Beatrice's death ; but the inference which 
some have drawn, that when he wrote the Vita Nucva 
he was a man without technical learning, is falsified by 
the work itself, which shows acquaintance with the 
Latin poets and with several of Aristotle's works, as 
well as a good knowledge of astronomy. 

44. The sense for truth. The Italian is H senso di vero, 
i,e,, that sense by which the reality of things, as distinct 
from their appearances, is apprehended. See II. 14 : 
24, note, 

48. The Dominicans and Franciscans were the great 
teachers of the time. 

60. It was still the tradition that love was the only 
proper subject of vernacular poetry. Compare Vita 
Nuova, § 25. And though Dante himself in the De 
Vulgari Eloquentia, which was in hand contemporaneously 
with the Convivio (see Appendix, p. 422 ff.), would extend 
the field to war and virtue (II. 2), yet he says that it had 
not been appropriated to the latter subject by any Italian ; 
and in his own Odes (which he describes as dealing with 
both love and virtue, I. i : 104) he is always careful to 
bring what he has to say, or the occasion for saying it, 
into some kind of connection with love. 

66, 67. His readers did understand him to have been 
moved by love of a mortal woman. But as he has never 
till now made the experiment of telling them anything 
else the passage (if text and rendering are correct) seems 
singularly inconclusive. 




[To understand the allegorical meaning of the ' third 
heaven ' we must note that the heavens in general 
signify the sciences, in virtue of three points of 
resemblance ; and the seven planetary heavens 
severally represent the seven liberal arts of the 
Trivium and the Quadrivium, in virtue of two 
correspondences in each case ; so that the third 
heaven means rhetoric] 

Heaven To see what is meant by the third heaven we 
. ^"" must first consider what I mean by the word 
'heaven' taken by itself; and then it will be 
clear how and why this third heaven was to our 
purpose. I say that by heaven I mean science, 
and by the heavens the sciences, because of 
three points of similarity which the heavens 
have with the sciences, especially in connection 
with their order and their number, wherein they 
seem to [_io2 agree, as will be seen when we 
treat of the word 'third.' 

The first point of similarity is that the one 
and the other revolves round a something that 
it does not move. For each moving heaven 
revolves upon its own centre, which is not moved 
by the motion of that heaven ; and in like manner 
each science moves around its own subject, 
but does not move it, because no science de- 
monstrates its own [203 subject but presupposes 

The second point of similarity is the illumin- 
ating power of the one and of the other. For 
each heaven illuminates visible things, and in 
like manner each science illuminates intelligible 


And the third point of similarity is that they in- The 
fuse perfection into things that are duly disposed, heavens 
Of which infusion, so far as the first perfection, ff;-.^^™ 
to wit substantial generation, is concerned, all 
philosophers agree that the heavens are C303 
the cause ; although they lay it down in different 
ways, some attributing it to the movers, as 
Plato, Avicenna and Algazel ; some to the stars 
themselves (especially in the case of human 
souls) as Socrates and Plato and Dionysius 
the Academician ; and some to celestial virtue 
which is in the natural heat of the seed, as 
Aristotle and the other Peripatetics. And in 
like manner the sciences are the cause in us of 
the infusion of the second perfection, (^403 by 
the habit of which we can speculate concerning 
the truth, which is our distinguishing perfection, 
as saith the Philosopher in the sixth of the 
Ethics, when he says that truth is the good 
of the intellect. Because of these, together 
with many other points of similarity, science 
may be called heaven. 

We are now to examine why the third heaven 
is mentioned ; whereto we must needs consider 
a comparison that holds [50] between the order 
of the heavens and that of the sciences. As 
was narrated above, then, the seven heavens 
that are first with respect to us are those of the 
planets ; next come two moving heavens above 
them ; and one above them all, which is quiet. 
To the seven first correspond the seven sciences 
of the Trivium and of the Quadrivium, to wit 
grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, 
geometry and astrology. To the eighth, to wit 
the starry sphere, [603 answers natural science 


Grammar which is called physics, and first science which 

and dia- is called metaphysics. To the ninth sphere 

''^ answers moral science ; and to the quiet heaven 

answers divine science, which is called theology. 

And the reason that all this is so must be briefly 


I say that the heaven of the moon is like 
grammar, as being comparable to it. For if 
the moon be rightly [70] examined two special 
things are perceived in her which are not per- 
ceived in the other stars ; the one is the shadow 
upon her which is nought else than the rarity of 
her substance, whereon the rays of the sun may 
not be stayed and thrown back, as from her 
other parts ; the other is the variation of her 
luminosity, which now shines from the one side 
and now from the other, according as the sun 
looks upon her. And these two properties 
grammar [So'] possesses ; for because of its 
infinity the rays of reason cannot be arrested, 
especially in the direction of words ; and it 
shines now on this side, now on that, in so far 
as certain words, certain declensions, certain 
constructions are now in use which were not 
of old, and many once were which shall be 
again ; as Horace says in the beginning of his 
Poesy, when he says: < Many words shall be 
born again, which have now fallen,' and the rest. 
[^90] And the heaven of Mercury may be 
compared to dialectic in virtue of two special 
properties ; for Mercury is the smallest star of 
heaven ; for the magnitude of his diameter is not 
more than two hundred and thirty-two miles, 
as Alfraganus states it, saying that it is one 
twenty-eighth part of the diameter of the earth, 


which is six thousand five hundred miles. The Rhetoric 
other special property is that its orbit is more and arith- 
veiled by the rays [lOo] of the sun than that ™®"'^ 
of any other star. And these two properties 
belong to dialectic ; for dialectic is smaller in 
its body than any other science ; for it is com- 
pletely constructed and terminated in so much 
of text as is contained in the Old Art and in 
the Nenv ; and its orbit is more veiled than that 
of any other science, inasmuch as it proceeds 
with more sophisticated arguments and more 
disputable than any other. 

[iioj And the heaven of Venus may be 
compared to rhetoric because of two special 
properties : the one is the brightness of her aspect, 
which is sweeter to look upon than any other 
star, the other is her appearing now at morn and 
now at even. And these two properties char- 
acterise rhetoric ; for rhetoric is the sweetest of 
all the other sciences, since this is what it chiefly 
aims at. It appears at morn when the rhetorician 
speaks [^120] before the face of his hearer, it 
appears at even, that is from behind, when the 
rhetorician discourses through writing, from the 
distant side. 

And the heaven of the sun may be compared 
to arithmetic because of two special properties ; 
the one is that all the other stars are informed 
by his light; the other that the eye may 
not look on him. And these two properties 
are seen in arithmetic, for by its light all the 
sciences are lightened; for [^1303 all their 
subjects are considered under some numerical 
aspect, and in the consideration of them there 
is always a numerical process. As in natural 


Music science, mobile matter is the subject, wiiich 
mobile matter has in itself the principle of con- 
tinuity, and this has in itself the principle of 
infinite number. And as for the speculations of 
natural science they are chiefly concerned with 
the principles of natural things, which are three, 
to wit material, [[1403 privation and form ; in 
which we see that there is not only number 
collectively, but there is also number in each 
one severally, if we consider subtly. Where- 
fore Pythagoras, as Aristotle says in the first of 
the \_Meta~\physics, laid down ' even ' and ' odd ' 
as the principles of natural things, considering 
all things to be number. The second property 
of the sun is also seen in number, with which 
arithmetic is concerned, for [150]] the eye of 
the intellect may not look upon it ; because 
number, considered in itself, is infinite, and such 
we may not understand. 

And the heaven of Mars may be compared to 
music, by two properties ; the one is the special 
beauty of its relation to the others ; for if we 
count the revolving heavens, whether we begin 
from the lowest or the highest this same heaven 
of Mars is the fifth ; and so it is half way [^1603 
between every pair, that is to say, the two first, 
the two second, the two third, the two fourth. 
The second is that this same Mars drieth and 
burneth things, because his heat is like to the 
heat of fire ; and this is why he appeareth en- 
kindled in colour, sometimes more and some- 
times less, according to the thickness and rarity 
of the vapours which follow him ; which vapours 
often blaze up of themselves, as is established in 
the first of the ^^70] Meteorics. And there- 


fore Albumassar says that the kindling of these Geometry 
vapours signifies the death of kings and the trans- 
mutation of kingdoms, because they are effects 
of the lordship of Mars. And therefore Seneca 
says that at the death of the Emperor Augustus 
he saw aloft a globe of fire. And in Florence, 
at the beginning of its ruin, was seen in the air, 
in the figure of a cross, a great quantity of these 
vapours that follow the QiSo] star of Mars. 
And these two properties are found in music, 
which all consists in relations, as we perceive 
in harmonised words and in tunes ; wherefrom 
the resulting harmony is the sweeter in propor- 
tion as the relation is more beauteous ; which 
relation is the chiefest beauty in that science, 
because this is what it chiefly aims at. More- 
over, music so draweth to itself the spirits of 
men (which are in principle as though vapours of 
the heart) that [ 1 90] they well-nigh cease from 
all operation ; so united is the soul when it hears 
it, and so does the virtue of all of them, as it 
were, run to the spirit of sense which receiveth 
the sound. 

And the heaven of Jove may be compared 
to geometry for two special properties ; the one 
is that it moveth between two heavens repugnant 
to its own fair temperance, to wit that of Mars 
and that of Saturn, Wherefore Ptolemy saith, 
in the book I have cited, that Jove Q200]] is a 
star of temperate composition betwixt the cold of 
Saturn and the heat of Mars. The other is that 
he shows white among the stars, as though of 
silver. And these things characterise the 
science of geometry. Geometry moves be- 
tween two things repugnant to itself, to wit the 


Astrology point and the circle (and I use ' circle ' in the 
larger sense of everything round, whether body 
or surface) ; for according to Euclid [210] 
the point is its beginning, and according to what 
he says the circle is its most perfect figure, 
which must therefore needs have the nature of 
an end. So that geometry moves between the 
point and the circle as between its beginning 
and its end. And these two are repugnant to 
its certainty ; for the point, because of its indi- 
visibility, cannot be measured, and the circle, 
because of its curve, is impossible to square per- 
fectly, and therefore is impossible to measure 
[220]] exactly. And, moreover, geometry is 
supremely white, in so far as it is without taint of 
error, and is most certain both in itself and in 
its handmaid which is called perspective. 

And the heaven of Saturn has two properties 
by which it may be compared to astrology ; the 
one is the slowness of its movement through the 
twelve signs ; for its orbit needs the [^2303 
time of twenty-nine years and more, according 
to the writings of astrologers ; the other is that 
it is exalted above all the other planets. These 
two properties characterise astrology, for in com- 
pleting its circle, that is to say in learning it, a 
most long space of time revolves, both because 
of its demonstrations, which are more than those 
of any other of the above-named sciences, and 
because of the observation which is needed 
rightly to judge in it. And further, it is more 
exalted than all the rest, because [2403, as 
Aristotle says in the beginning Of the Soul, a 
science is exalted in nobility by the nobleness of 
its subject-matter and by its certainty. And 


this, more than any of the above-mentioned, No flaw 
is noble and exalted by the nobility and exalta- in *s- 
tion of its subject-matter, which concerns the "O^OSJ 
movement of heaven ; and it is exalted and 
ennobled by its certainty, which is without any 
flaw, being that it cometh from the most perfect 
and regular principle. And if any [250] sup- 
pose that there be a flaw in it, it is not on its 
side, but, as Ptolemy says, it is because of our 
negligence, and thereto should it be imputed. 

This chapter is full of curious and interesting matter, 
but it would be vain to attempt to find any real penetra- 
tion or wisdom in its fantastic analogies. We may sym- 
pathise with the idea that there is a hierachy of the 
sciences, and further with the idea that ' all things are 
double one against another,* so that the intellectual and 
physical worlds must be in some kind of correspondence 
with each other ; but beyond this we shall find only 
ingenuity at best in the correspondences insisted upon. 

24. Intelligible is used by Dante in contrast to sensible. 
Sensible things can be perceived by the senses, intelligible 
things by the intellect only. Thus the phrase non- 
intelligible things comes to mean things of which (since 
they are not accessible to the intellect alone) sense can 
take cognisance. Compare III. 12: 44-59. The relation 
of the sensible to the intelligible is illustrated in a passage 
of great beauty in Augustine's Soliloquies (I. 9), where, 
in speaking of mathematics, he compares the sense im- 
pressions on which the conception of a line or a sphere 
is founded to a ship which carries us up to a country 
we wish to visit, but cannot take us into it ; for it is no 
more possible really to understand mathematics as long 
as we adhere to the sense impressions than it would be 
to sail in a ship upon the dry land, but we cannot get to 
them except by the aid of sense impressions. 

26. Perfection. The Latin perfectio is a translation ot 
Aristotle's technical term ivT^ix^ia., the ' being-at-its- 
goal-ness' of a thing. For instance, if an organised 
body is capable of life, then it has received its enteiechy 


as soon as it lives ; and yet life itself is a series of 
capacities, and these capacities have not received their 
entelechies until they have realised or actualised them- 
selves. Hence the definition of the ' soul,' or 'life,' as 
the ' first entelechy of a natural organic body.' It will 
be seen that form and entelechy are closely related con- 
ceptions, the difference being that the form is the 
essential quality, or group of qualities, and the entelechy 
is the possession or realisation of them. In the present 
passage Dante regards the existence of man (as a ' sub- 
stance ' or independent being) as his first entelechy, and 
the specifically human possession of knowledge as his 
second entelechy. Compare I. 13 : 16-44. 

32. Plato (427-347 B.C.), Avicenna (978-1037 a.d.) 
was the most celebrated of the Eastern, or old, 
school of Arabic philosophers. He wrote Aristotelian 
treatises after the fashion subsequently followed by 
Albertus Magnus. That is to say, he did not com- 
ment upon the text of Aristotle's works, but paraphrased 
it and incorporated it in treatises of his own, with identi- 
cal titles. Algazel (1059-1111 a.d.), though a student 
of philosophy, was the representative of a theological 
reaction against it. He wrote a Refutation of the Philoso- 
phers, which Averroes subsequently combated in his 
turn in the Refutation of the Refutation. 

34. Socrates (468-399 B.C.). Toynbee thinks that by 
' Dionysius the Academician ' Dante means Dionysius 
the Areopagite (^^cts, xvii, 34). He was the supposed 
author of treatises on angel-lore and kindred matters, 
whose authority Dante followed in the Paradiso. The 
real date of these works is a matter of dispute, but is 
certainly not earlier than the fourth century. 

36. Compare IV. 21 : 1-48. 

43 f. Good of the intellect. Compare /«/£f«o. III. 18. 

73-76. See Dante's recantation of this explantion of 
the shadows on the moon in Paradiso, II. 49-105. As to 
the analogy with grammar, Dante appears to mean that 
whereas you can give rules of grammar (or language) 
you can seldom give reasons for its ultimate phenomena, 
especially the composition of its vocabulary, so that its 
foundations baffle reason. 

83-89. Compare I. 5 : 50-52, note. 

105-106. The Old Art consisted of Porphyry's Intro- 


ductioTiy Aristotle's Categories and De Interpretationc, 
both translated by Boethius, and (subsequently) Gilbert 
de la Porree's Sex Principia, The Ne^v Art consisted of 
the rest of Aristotle's Organon. Porphyry, third century 
A.D., Gilbert de la Porree, 1070-1154 a.d. 

108. Disputable. Italian prohabili. Compare IV. 
18:8 (and 19 : 10), note. 

125. It was the general opinion that the stars were 
illuminated by the sun. Compare III. 12 : ^^ ff.,Paradiso, 
XX. 6, Ode XI. 117, and many other passages. 

135. The difference between discontinuous quantity, 
i.e., number, and continuous quantity, i.e., magnitude, 
was perfectly well understood by Aristotle and the 
mediaeval scholars, who had a very firm grasp of the 
conception of incommensurability, and, by implication, of 
limits. In this passage Dante insists on continuous 
magnitudes being capable of infinite subdivision, and 
therefore, when treated numerically, implying the prin- 
ciple of infinite number. 

140. All material (whether first matter, or the ele- 
ments of things prepared by nature or by art) has certain 
capacities or potentialities. The state of existence in 
which such material has not actually received the de- 
velopment of which it is capable is pri-vation. The 
realised potentialities which make a thing this or that, 
not in potentiality but in actuality, are its fiorm, Dante 
rightly defines physics, as understood in his day, to be 
concerned with these three conceptions. Pri-vatioti, it 
will be seen, can only exist in a subject capable of receiv- 
ing the form with respect to which the privation is said to 
exist. There is no privation of life in a stone, or of 
speech in a brute beast. Subject and material are there- 
fore allied conceptions. 

It does not at first strike us as natural to call the 
essential characteristics of a thing its form. But it is 
the form of a statue or a chest (not its material) that 
makes it what it is ; and if we said we believed that 
the elements were all different yirwi of one substance, we 
should be calling their differentiating characteristics 
their forms. Thus to the scholastic philosophy the form 
of a plant [i.e., what made it a plant and not something 
else) was ' the life of nutrition and reproduction, without 
the life of sense,' and so forth. 


142. Number, that is ratio, relation or measurement. 
144. On the vexed question of the Pythagorean con- 
ception of numbers as entities we cannot enter here. 
170. Albumassar, an Arabic astronomer (805-885 


191. Compare Purgatorio, IV. 1-12, 

199. Ptolemy (second century a.d.). Dante has re- 
ferred to him in II. 3 ; 36, but has not quoted any 
special work. It seems doubtful how far he was ac- 
quainted with him at first hand. 

2i8. Compare Paradiso, XXXIII. 133-135. 


[Again, the starry heaven represents physics and 
metaphysics, in virtue of three correspondences 
with each. The primum mobile corresponds to 
ethics. And the peace of the unmoved empyrean 
corresponds to theology,] 

Physics After the comparisons made concerning the 
and raeta- seven first heavens, we are to proceed (as more 
physics jjjgjj Qjj(,g declared) to the others, which are 
three. I say that the starry heaven may be 
compared to physics because of three properties, 
and to metaphysics because of three others ; 
for it displays to us two visible objects, to wit 
the multitude of stars and the milky way, 
which is that white circle which the vulgar call 
[103 Saint Jacob's Way; and it reveals one 
of its poles to us and conceals the other from 
us ; and it reveals one only motion to us, from 
east to west, and the other, which it makes 
from west to east, it well-nigh conceals from 
us. Wherefore in due order we are to consider 
first its comparison with physics and then with 


I say that the starry heaven reveals a mul- The stars 
titude of stars to us, for according to the 
observation of the sages of Egypt [20] they 
reckon, inclusive of the extremist star which 
appears to them in the south, a thousand and 
twenty-two separate stars ; and it is of them 
that I am speaking. And herein it hath the 
greatest resemblance to physics, if we subtly 
consider these three numbers, to wit two, 
twenty, and a thousand ; for by two we under- 
stand local movement, which is of necessity 
from one point to another. And by twenty 
is signified movement by modification ; [[30J 
for since, after ten, we can only proceed by 
modifying ten itself, by means of the other nine 
and of itself (the most elegant modification it 
receives being its own modification by itself), 
and since the first which it receives is twenty, 
it is fitting that the said movement should be 
signified by this number. And by a thousand 
is signified the movement of growth ; for this 
* thousand ' is the highest number that has a 
name of its own, and there can [^403 be no 
further growth save by multiplying it. And 
physics manifests these three movements only, 
as is proved in the fifth of the fundamental 
treatise about it. 

And because of the milky way this heaven 
hath great likeness to metaphysics. Wherefore 
we are to know that concerning this milky 
way philosophers have held divers opinions. 
For the Pythagoreans said that once upon a 
time the sun strayed in his course, and passing 
through other [50]] portions not suited to his 
heat scorched the place along which he passed ; 


The and this appearance of scorching was left there. 
milky And I believe that they were moved thereto by 
''^^y the fable of Phaeton, which Ovid tells in the 
beginning of the second of the Metamorphoses. 
Others (of whom were Anaxagoras and Demo- 
critus) said that it was caused by the light of 
the sun reflected in this part. And these 
opinions they support by arguments to prove 
them. What [60^ Aristotle may have said on 
this point cannot be rightly known, because his 
opinion does not appear the same in one trans- 
lation as in the other. And I suppose there 
must have been a mistake made by the trans- 
lators ; for in the new he seems to say that it is 
a congregation of vapours beneath the stars of 
that region, which ever draw them up ; and 
this doth not seem to set forth a true cause. In 
the old he says that the milky way is nought 
else than a multitude [70] of fixed stars, in 
that region, so small that from here below we 
may not distinguish them, though they produce 
the appearance of that glow which we call the 
milky way ; f and it may be that the heaven 
in that region is denser, and therefore arrests 
and throws back the light f ; and this opinion 
seems to be shared with Aristotle by Avicenna 
and Ptolemy. Wherefore, inasmuch as the 
milky way is an effect of those stars which we 
may [_^o~] not see, save that we are aware of 
these things by their effect, and metaphysics 
treats of the primal existences, which in like 
manner we may not understand save by their 
effects, it is manifest that the starry heaven hath 
great similitude to metaphysics. 

Further, the pole that we see signifies the 


things of sense, of which, taken in their full The two 
compass, physics treats ; [90^ and the pole niove- 
that we see not signifies things that are im- J^ f 
material and are not sensible, whereof meta- sphere 
physics treats ; and therefore the said heaven 
hath great similitude to the one science and to 
the other. Further, by its two movements it 
signifies these two sciences ; for by the move- 
ment wherewith it revolveth day by day, and 
maketh a fresh return from point to point, it 
signifieth the corruptible things of nature, which 
day by l^ioo] day complete their course, and 
their material changeth from form to form ; and 
of these physics treats. And by the almost 
insensible movement which it makes from east 
to west, at the rate of a degree in a hundred 
years, it signifieth the incorruptible things which 
had of God a created beginning and shall have 
no end ; and of these metaphysics treats. And 
this is why I say that this movement signifieth 
them, because the circulation in question had a 
beginning [^11 oj and shall have no end; for 
the end of a circulation is returning to one 
identical point, and this heaven shall never 
return to such with reference to this movement. 
For since the beginning of the world it has 
revolved little more than one-sixth part ; and 
we are already in the final age of the world, and 
are verily awaiting the consummation of the 
celestial movement. And so it is manifest that 
the starry heaven, because of many properties, 
may be compared to physics and to [120]] 

The crystalline heaven, which has been 
counted above as the primum mobile, has very 


Ethics manifest comparison with moral philosophy ; 
because, as Thomas, on the second of the Ethics 
says, it disposes us rightly for the other 
sciences. For, as says the Philosopher in the 
fifth of the Ethics, legal justice regulates the 
sciences with a view to [1303 learning, and 
commands them to be learnt and taught that 
they be not forsaken ; and so doth the said 
heaven regulate with its movement the daily 
revolution of all the others, whereby every 
day they all receive from above the virtue of 
all their parts. For if the revolution of this 
heaven did not thus regulate the same, little of 
their virtue would come down here, and little 
sight of them. Wherefore suppose it were 
possible for this (3140] ninth heaven not to 
move, in any given place on earth a third part 
of the heaven would never yet have been seen ; 
and Saturn would be fourteen years and a half 
concealed from any given place on the earth ; 
and Jove would be concealed for six years ; and 
Mars about a year ; and the sun one hundred 
and eighty-two days and fourteen hours (I say 
' days ' to signify the length of time which so 
many days measure) ; and Venus and Mercury 
would be concealed and revealed about [150] 
like the sun ; and the moon for fourteen days 
and a half would be hidden from all folk. 

Of a truth there would be no generation here 
below, nor life of animal nor plant ; night would 
not be, nor day, nor week, nor month, nor 
year ; but all the universe would be disordered, 
and the movement of the other heavens would 
be in vain. And, not otherwise, were moral 
philosophy to cease, the other sciences would 


be hidden [1603 a certain space, and there Theology 
would be no generation, nor life, nor felicity ; 
and in vain would the other sciences have 
been written down and discovered of old. 
Whereby it is right clear that this heaven may 
be compared to moral philosophy. 

Further, the empyrean heaven in virtue of its 
peace is like the divine science, which is full of 
all peace, which suffereth not any strife of 
opinions or of sophistical arguments, because 
of the most excellent certainty of its [^1703 
subject-matter, which is God. And of it saith 
he himself unto his disciples : ' My peace I give 
unto you, my peace I leave with you,' giving 
and leaving them his teaching, which is this 
science whereof I speak. 

Of her saith Solomon : ' Sixty are the queens 
and eighty are the concubines, and of the young 
maidens there is no number ; one is my dove 
and my perfect one.' All the sciences he calls 
queens and paramours and [ 1 80] handmaidens, 
and this he calls dove because it is without taint 
of strife, and this he calls perfect because it 
makes us see the truth perfectly, wherein our 
soul is quieted. 

And so, this comparison of the heavens and 
the sciences being expounded, we may perceive 
that by the third heaven I mean rhetoric, which 
resembles the third heaven as appears above. 

25. The idea that numbers represent cosmic principles 
is a characteristic conception of mediaeval arithmetic, 
perhaps ultimately derived from the Pythagoreans. In 
detail there was much room for diversity and fluctuation. 

27-43. Aristotle regarded all change as movement ; 
local transference, internal modification (alteratio) and 


growth being its three forms {PAytics, V. i.). [Dante 
gives the reference as nel quinto del prima suo libra, /.«.,' in 
the fifth book of its ('it' being ' physics ') first (funda- 
mental) treatise,' This has been understood as 'the fifth 
chapter of the first book of the Physics^ and has been 
regarded as a false reference.] Dante regards any mental 
or spiritual change as a ' spiritual movement ' (Purgatorio, 
XVIII. 32). 

64-68, The Neiv translation was the one made direct 
from the Greek for the use of Thomas Aquinas, the Old 
was an earlier translation, made from the Arabic and 
used by Albertus Magnus. Dante correctly reports the 
purport of the two translations of this passage, but is 
mistaken in his inference that the New is a less 
correct translation of Aristotle's words. The earlier 
translator had evidently attempted to improve on Aris- 
totle from his own better information. 

73-76. The words I have placed between daggers 
seem to disturb the context. 

82. By 'primal existences' Dante perhaps means 
first matter, and the angels (who are pure 'form'). 
Neither of these is accessible to the senses. 

114 and 140 fF. It appears that Dante supposed the 
world to have existed, roughly speaking, six thousand 
years in his day. For so the proper motion of the stars 
would have passed through 60°, or one-sixth of the total 
revolution. (The current estimates would have made it 
nearer seven thousand.) Selecting a spot of earth in the 
most favourable position, that is on the equator, half the 
heaven would have been visible at the creation, and one- 
sixth more would have come into view since, making 
altogether two-thirds. The other third would never 
have appeared to it. 

127-132. The reference appears to be inexact, but it 
is perfectly true that Aristotle insisted on the necessity 
of state provision for education. 

138. Dante here supposes the diurnal rotation of the 
earth to be arrested. Compare the similar passage in 
Paradise, X. 13-21, where he traces the consequences of 
the proper motions of the other revolving spheres being 
reduced to direct opposition to the daily motion. 

147 f. There would be no ' day,' so the word can only 
be used a-s an expression for a certain space of time. 



[From all which it follows that the movers of the 
third heaven are the rhetoricians. And all the 
details explain themselves. When the light of 
philosophy breaks upon us it smites us with love, 
at first troubled and beset with difficulties but 
then clear and triumphant ; so that we quit, with 
whatever regret, all other loves for this, and in 
their death find higher life, seeing into the 
heart of wondrous things. And thus the author 
declares that his second Love was no other than 
the Wisdom of God.] 

In virtue of the similitudes now expounded it The 
may be seen who are those movers whom I rhetor- 
address, which move this heaven ; such as '^^^^^^ 
Boethius and TuUy, who with the sweetness of a. 
their discourse set me upon the way of love, as 
related above, (that is to say, devotion to this most 
gentle lady Philosophy), with the rays of their 
star, which is the scripture that concerns her ; 
for, in [ 1 03 every science, scripture is a star, full 
charged with light, which showeth forth that 
science. And when this is understood we may 
see the true meaning of the first verse of the ode 
before us by means of the fictitious and literal 
exposition. And by means of this same exposi- //. 
tion we may adequately understand the second 
verse up to the place where it says : 

He makes me ga%e upon a lady^ 

where you are to know that this \jzo~\ lady is a. 
Philosophy ; who in truth is a lady full of sweet- 
ness, adorned with honour, wondrous in wisdom, 
glorious in freedom, as in the third treatise, where 


The her nobleness will be dealt with, shall be made 
demon- manifest, 
^of ohSo^ And in the place where it says : 

" ^ Who ivould behold salvation heedjully 

let him look upon this lady^s eyes, 

the eyes of this lady are her demonstrations, 
the which, when turned upon the eyes of the 
intellect, enamour that soul which is [^30] 
free in its conditions. Oh most sweet and un- 
utterable looks, of a sudden ravishing the 
human mind, which appear in the demonstrations 
in the eyes of Philosophy, when she discourses 
to her lovers ! Verily in you is the salvation 
whereby whoso looketh on you is blessed, and 
saved from the death of ignorance and of vice. 
Where it says : 

If he fear not the anguish of sighings ; 

there must be understood, if he fear [403 not 
the toil of study, and the strife of perplexities 
which rise in manifold fashion from the be- 
ginning of the glances of this lady, and then as 
her light continueth fall away like morning 
clouds from the face of the sun ; and the in- 
tellect that hath become her familiar remains 
free and full of certainty, even as is the air 
purged and lightened by the mid-day rays. 
^, The third verse likewise may be understood 
by the literal exposition up to where it says 

. [50] 

the soul wails. 

Here we must give good heed to a certain moral 
which may be noted in these words ; namely, 


that a man ought not, because of a greater The 
friend, to forget the services received from the fascina- 
lesser ; but if it really behoves him to follow ~^^ 
the one and leave the other, when he follows the 
better the other is not to be abandoned without 
some fitting lamentation ; wherein he giveth 
cause to the one he followeth of all the greater 

Then when it saith ' of my eyes ' it means [|6o] 
nought else save that mighty was the hour when 
the first demonstration of this lady entered into 
the eyes of my intellect, which was the most 
immediate cause of this enamourment. And 
where it saith ' my peers ' souls are meant that 
are free from wretched and vile delights, and 
from the ways of the vulgar, endowed with 
intellect and memory. And then it saith ' slays,' 
and then saith ' am slain,' which seems counter 
to [^703 what was said above of this lady's 
saving power. And therefore be it known that 
here one of the sides is speaking, and there the 
other, which two contend diversely, according 
as was expounded above. Wherefore it is no 
marvel if the one says yea, and the other nay, if 
it be rightly noted which is declining and which 
ascending. Then in the fourth verse, where it 
says * a little spirit of love,' it means a thought 
which springs from my study. Wherefore be 
it []8o] known that by love in this allegory is 
always meant that very study which is the appli- 
cation of the mind enamoured of a thing to that 
thing itself. Then when it saith : 

Thou shah see adornment of such lofty miracles^ 

it declares that through her shall be per- 


Philo- ceived the adornments of the miracles ; and 
sophy the jt says true, for the adornment of marvels is 
^ love ^^^ perception of the causes of them, which 
is what she demonstrates, as the Philo- 
sopher appears to feel in the beginning of the 
[go] Metaphysics, when he says that by per- 
ceiving these adornments men begin to be 
enamoured of this lady. And of this word, to 
wit marvel, there will be fuller discourse in the 
following treatise. All the rest of this ode 
which follows is adequately explained by the other 
exposition. And so, at the close of this second 
treatise, I declare and affirm that the lady of whom 
I [lOo] was enamoured after my first love was 
the most fair and noble daughter of the Emperor 
of the universe, to whom Pythagoras gave the 
name of Philosophy. And here ends the second 
treatise, which is served as the first course. 

28. Compare III. 15 : 12-18. 

56. Compare Furgator'io, XXX. 49 ff. , j 
61. Compare III. 15 : 12-18 (as above). 

94. See III. 7: 155-183 and XIV. 127-141. '^ 

98-103. Mr Gardner regards Paradho VIII. 34-37? 
as a virtual recantation of this assertion and an admission 

that the ode was originally a true love poem. ^j 




Amor, die nella mente mi ragiona. ' " 

Love that discourses to me in my mind yearningly of 

my lady moveth many a time such things with nie 

anent her that my intellect loses its way concerning 


His discourse soundeth so sweetly that the soul that 

heareth him and feeleth cryeth : ' Oh, me that I have 

not power to tell that which I hear about my lady.' [8] 

And verily it behoveth me first to drop, 

Would I treat of that which I hear of her, all that 

my intellect apprehendeth not : and of that which it 

understandeth great part, because I should not know 

to tell it. Wherefore if defect shall mark niy 

rhymes, which shall enter upon her praises, for 

this let our feeble intellect be blamed, and our speech 

which hath not power to tell again all that love 

speaketh.- ■ j j [18] 

lUii ..1 •:!£; c-j\ ., ;.'.. ii ij.-'. i.t /'•>\\'':v:\ \-- '. t^a; 

■ liie sun" seefh not^ Wfib circlet^ ^u{! the worldv a, 

thing so gentle as in that hour when he shineth «ir 

the place where sojourneth the lady of whom love con-i 

straineth me to speak. ^ . ,^, j .. ,, ^^f,.,. ,/ [22] 

Every supernal intellect gazes upon Ker, " and such 
folk as are here enamoured still find her in their 

thoughts when love maketh them feel of his peace. [26] 

Her being is to him ^ho gives it her so pleasin|f ''■'•'_ ' 

That he ever poureth his power into her, beyond; 

what our nature asketh. Iler pure soul, which 



receiveth from him this salvation, maketh it show 

forth in that which she doth guide ; for her beauties 

are things clear to view, and the eyes of those in whom 

she shineth send messages thereof to the heart filled 
with longings which gather air and turn to sighs. [36] 


On her descendeth the divine power as it doth upon 

an angel who beholdeth it, and whatsoever gentle lady 

not believeth this, let her go with her and mark well 

her gestures. 

Where she speaks there cometh down a spirit from 

heaven who gives us faith that the lofty worth which 

9he possesses transcends all that consorts with our 

nature. [44] 

, ;The sweet gestures which she shows to others 

Go calling upon love, each vying with the other, in 

that voice which maketh him to hear. Of her it may 

be said : Gentle is that hi lady which in her is 

found ; and beauteous is so much only as is like to 

^r^^,;,!,, And affirm we may that to look on her gives 
helpi t. ft toaccept that which seems a miracle; where- 

by our faith is aided ; therefore from eternity such 

was she ordained. , [54] 

Things are revealed in her aspect which show us of 

the joys of Paradise, I mean in her eyes and in her 

sweet smile, which love assigneth there as to their 

proper place. {58] 

They transcend our intellect, as the sun's ray the 

feeble vision : and because I may not gaze fixedly upon 

them, needs must I content me with scant speech of 

thetp. , [62] 

'"~ Her beauty rains down flamelets of fire,' " 

Made living by a gentle spirit, which is the 

creator of every good thought : and they shatter 

like thunder the inborn vices that make folk 

vile ; wherefore whatsoever lady heareth her 


beauty blamed for not seeming tranquil and 

humble, let her gaze on her who is the pattern of 

humility. It is she who humbleth each perverse 

one : of her was he thinking who set the universe 

in motion. [72] 


Ode ! it seemeth that thy speech is counter to the 

utterance of a little sister whom thou hast ; for this lady 

whom thou makest to be humble, she calleth cruel and 

disdainful. [76] 

Thou knowest that the heaven is ever shining and 

clear, and as concerns itself is disturbed never ; but 

our eyes, for many a cause, call the star clouded, time 

and time again, [80] 

IS '"! Li; ' ■ ' ■ 

. So when she calleth her orgulous. 

She considereth her not according to the truth, but 

only according as to her she appeared ; for the soul was 

in terror, aye and is in such terror yet, that it seemeth to 

me a dire thing whensoever I look where she perceiveth 

me. Thus plead thy excuse if thou have need ; and, 

when thou canst, present thyself to her, and say : ' My 

lady, if it be acceptable to thee, I will discourse of thee 

on every side.' [90] 






[Of the occasion of this ode in praise of the author's 
second love. How, though bewildered by excess 
of love, he yet had the wit, or instinct, to recog- 
nise three reasons for speaking in his lady's 
praise. Of the three main divisions of the ode.] 

Love of As hath been told in the preceding treatise, my 
philo- second love took its beginning from the com- 
" ^ passionate semblanceof a lady. Which love after- 
ward, finding my life disposed for its ardour, 
kindled, after the fashion of fire, from a little 
flame to a great ; so that, not only when I woke 
but when I slept, into my head was light from her 
guided; and [^lo^ how great was the yearning 
which love gave me to see her could neither be 
uttered nor comprehended. And not only of her 
was I thus desirous, but of all those persons who 
were in any ways connected with her, whether by 
intimacy or by any tie of kinship. Oh how 
many nights there were wherein the eyes of 
others were resting, closed in sleep, and mine 
were fixedly [20] gazing on the abiding-place 
of my love ! And since the redoubled con- 
flagration must needs reveal itself outwardly 
(because it cannot possibly remain concealed) 
a wish came upon me to speak of love, which I 
was utterly unable to restrain. And though I 
might have but little command over my own 
counsel, yet I so far approached it from time to 
time, either by the will of love or by my own 
eagerness, that I comprehended and perceived 
that, in speaking of love, there was no more fair 
nor [303 profitable discourse than that which 
commended the loved person. 


And this deliberation was inspired by three Reasons 
reasons ; of which the first was the proper love ^o'" . . 
of myself, which is the beginning of all the rest ; £^^0!"^ 
even as everyone perceives that there is no more sophy 
legitimate nor more gracious method of a man j jj jjj_ 
doing honour to himself than by honouring his . 
friend. For, [^40] inasmuch as friendship may 
not be between unlikes, wheresoever friendship 
is perceived likeness is understood to be ; and 
wheresoever likeness is understood to be praise 
and blame run common. And from this argu- 
ment two great lessons may be learnt ; the one 
is, not to be willing that any vicious one should 
show himself to be our friend, because therein 
an evil opinion of him to whom he shows him- 
self friendly is conceived ; and the other is that 
[^503 no one should blame his friend publicly, 
because — if the preceding reason be rightly 
considered — he is thereby thrusting a finger into 
his own eye. 

The second reason was the desire to perpetuate ii- 
this friendship. Wherefore you are to know 
that, as saith the Philosopher in the ninth of the 
Ethics, in the friendship of folk of unlike con- 
dition there must be, in order to preserve it, a 
certain proportion between [60] them, which 
shall in a way reduce the unlikeness to likeness ; 
as in the case of a master and servant. For 
although the servant cannot render a like benefit 
to his master when he receives a benefit from 
him, he must nevertheless render such as he 
best can, with so much zeal and openness that 
that which is unlike in itself shall be made like 
by the manifestation of goodwill, which reveals 
and confirms and preserves the friendship, {jo} 


Against Wherefore I, reflecting upon my inferiority to 
^^ l^'f^'^s this lady, and seeing myself benefited by her, 
°chMp-ed [resolved] to commend her according to my 
love power ; if the which be not like in itself [to her s] , 
at least my zealous will shows that, if I could do 
more, more would I do ; and so it likens itself 
to that of this gentle lady. 
iii. The third reason was a motive prompted by 
forethought ; for as says Boethius : * It doth not 
suffice to look only upon that which is [So] 
before the eyes, to wit the present ; and there- 
fore forethought is given to us, which looks 
beyond, even to that which may come to pass.' 
I mean that I reflected that by many who come 
after me I might perchance be reproved for 
lightness of mind when they heard that I had 
changed from my first love. Wherefore, to 
remove this blame, there was no better means 
than to tell of the quality of the lady who had 
changed me. For by the manifestation of her 
excellence [90] consideration of her power 
might accrue ; and when her supreme power was 
understood it might be thought that no stability 
of mind could resist being changed by her ; and 
so I might not be deemed light or unstable. I 
undertook, therefore, to speak this lady's praise, 
and, if not in fashion as were fitting, at least 
so far forth as I might ; and I began to say : 

Love, that discourses to me in my mind. 

I. II. III. [1003 This ode has three chief parts. The 
first is all the first verse, wherein the discourse 
is by way of proem. The second is all the three 
following verses, wherein is treated that which 
it is the purport of the ode to utter ; to wit, the 


praise of this gentle one. And the first of these Order 
begins ; of the 


The sun seeth not., nvho circleth all the ivorld. 

The third part is the fifth and last verse, wherein, 
directing my words to the ode, I purge her 
[iioj of a certain difficulty. And of these 
three parts we are to discourse in order. 

29-32. It was not the first time Dante had had to 
learn this. See Vita l^uo-va, §§ 18, 19. 
36. Compare Purgatorio, XVII. 106-III. 
62 fF. Compare Epistle to Can Grande, 11. 58-76. 


[(I.) Of the threefold division of this first section, treat- 
ing [a) of the ineffable theme, {b) of the author's 
insufficiency, and (c) of the excuses for the same. 
But first of (i.) love. How the soul, being of 
divine origin, shares the divine will to be, and so 
seeks to strengthen its existence by communion 
with the supreme Existence ; and therefore, again, 
desires to penetrate to the divine essence of the 
things of nature, where it holds such communion 
with God ; which desire is no other than the love 
of wisdom, in proportion to their possession of 
which the nobility of human souls may be judged. 
And also of (ii.) the mind, which is the most con- 
summate and divine factor of human life. ] 

Addressing myself then to the first part, which The 
was ordained as proem of this ode, I say that proem 
we must divide it into three parts. For first, I. 
the ineffable quality of the theme is touched 
upon J secondly, my insufficiency to deal per- 


Of love fectly with it is set forth ; and this second part 
a, d, c. begins : 

And verily it behoveth me first to drop. 

Finally [[loj I excuse myself for my insuffici- 
ency, for which no fault should be found with 
nie ; and this I begin when I say : 

Wherefore.^ \f defect shall mark my rhymes. 

I say then : 

Love that discourses to me in my mind, 

where, in the first place, we are to consider who 
i. ii. this is who discourses, and what that place is 
wherein I assert that he makes discourse. 
!• Love, truly taken and subtly considered, is 
nought else than a spiritual [_2o] union of the 
soul and of the loved thing ; to which union the 
soul, in virtue of its own nature, runs swift or 
slow according as it is free or impeded. And 
the reason of this natural property may be that 
every substantial form proceeds from its own first 
cause, which is God, as is written in the Book 
of Causes ; and they derive their diversities not 
from it, for it is most simple, but from the 
secondary C30] causes or from the material 
upon which it descends ; wherefore, in that same 
book, in treating of the infusion of the divine 
goodness it is written : * And make the excel- 
lences and the gifts diverse, in virtue of the 
co-operation of the thing which receives.' 
Wherefore, inasmuch as every effect retains 
something of the nature of its cause (as Alpe- 
tragius says when he affirms that what is caused 
by a circular body has, in a certain fashion, a 


circular existence), [40]] every form possesses, in Of the 
a fashion, the existence of the divine nature ; soul's 
not that the divine nature is divided and com- likeness 
municated to them ; but it is participated by 
them, something after the mode wherein the sun 
is by participation in the other stars. And the 
more noble the form is the more does it retain of 
this nature. Wherefore the human soul, which 
is the noblest form of all those that are gener- 
ated beneath the heaven, receives more of the 
divine [50] nature than any other. And since 
it is most germane to the nature of God to will 
to be (because, as we read in the aforesaid book, 
' being comes first of all, and before that there is 
nought '), the human soul naturally desires, with 
the whole force of its longing, to be. And be- 
cause its being depends on God, and by him is 
preserved, it naturally desires and wills to be 
united to God, in order to fortify its own being. 
And because it is in the excellences [[603 of 
nature that the divine principle reveals itself, it 
comes to pass that the human soul naturally 
unites herself with them in spiritual fashion, the 
more swiftly and the more mightily in proportion 
as they appear more perfect. And they so appear 
in proportion as the soul's power of recognition 
is clear or obstructed. And this union it is 
which we call love, whereby the inner quality of 
the soul may be recognised by examining out- 
wardly the things which [yoj it loves. This 
love, to wit the union of my soul with this 
gentle lady, in whom full much of the divine 
light was revealed to me, is he who discourses, 
and of whom I speak ; because from him unbroken 
thoughts had birth, by gazing and pondering upon 


Of the the worth of this lady, who was spiritually made 
mind one thing with my soul. 

ii- The place wherein I say that he discoursed 
is the mind, but to say that it is the [8oJ mind 
gives us no more understanding of it than before ; 
and therefore we are to examine what this word 
mind properly signifies. I say then that the 
Philosopher in the second Of the Soul, when 
analysing its powers, says that the soul has in 
the main three powers, to wit, life, sense and 
reason ; and he also mentions motion, but this 
may be united with sense, for every soul that 
has sense (either with all the senses or some one 
of them only), C90] has motion also; so that 
motion is a power inseparable from sense. And, 
as he says, it is quite plain that these powers are 
so related to each other that one is the founda- 
tion of the other. And that which is the 
foundation may exist by itself apart ; but the 
other, which is founded upon it, may not exist 
apart from it. Wherefore the vegetative power, 
whereby things live, is the foundation upon 
which rests the sensitive life, to wit [[looj, 
sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch ; and this 
vegetative power may constitute a soul in itself, 
as we see in all the plants. The sensitive power 
cannot exist without this ; there is nothing that 
feels, without being alive. And this sensitive 
power is the foundation of the intellectual power, 
to wit the reason ; and therefore, amongst mortal 
things that have life, the rational power without 
the sensitive is not to be found ; but the sensi- 
tive power is to be found [^iioj without the 
other, as we see in the beasts and in the birds and 
in the fishes and in every brute animal. And that 


soul which embraces all these powers is the most Of the 
perfect of all the rest. And the human soul, faculties 
which is associated with the nobility of the of the 
highest power, to wit reason, participates in the ™"^ 
divine nature after the fashion of an eternal in- 
telligence ; because the soul is so ennobled, and 
stripped of material, in this sovran power 
[120], that the divine light shines in it as in an 
angel ; and therefore man has been called by the 
philosophers the ' divine animal,' In this most 
noble part of the soul exist many faculties, as 
says the Philosopher, especially in the sixth of 
the Ethics., where he says that there is a capacity in 
it which is called the scientific, and another which 
is called the ratiocinative or counselling ; and 
together with this are certain faculties, as Aris- 
totle says in n^3"^D ^'^'^ same place, such as the 
inventive faculty and the judicial. And all these 
most noble faculties, and the rest that abide in 
this excellent power, are called collectively by 
this name, as to the meaning of which we were 
inquiring, to wit 'mind.' Whereby it is mani- 
fest that by mind we understand this highest 
and most noble part of the soul. 

And that this is the meaning is seen from the 
fact [^1403 that it is only of man and of the 
divine substances that this ' mind ' is predicated ; 
as may be plainly seen from Boethius, who first 
predicates it of men, when he says to Philosophy : 
* Thou, and God who placed thee in the minds 
of men ' ; and afterwards predicates it of God 
when he says to God : < Thou dost produce all 
things after a supernal pattern, oh thou most 
beauteous, bearing the beauteous world in thy 
mind.' Nor ever was it predicated of a brute 


Of animal; [150] nay, rather are there many men 
mindless ^vho seem lacking in this most perfect part, of 
™®° whom it seems that we neither should nor can 
predicate it ; and therefore such are called in 
grammar amenti and dementi, that is ' without 
mind.' So now we can see what is that 
mind, which is the culmination and the 
most precious part of the soul, which is deity. 
And this is the place wherein I declare that love 
discourseth to me of my lady. 

22-23. Compare Parad'no, I. 103 fF., especially 139- 

25. Subitantidl form, i.e., the form in virtue of which 
any being, or ' substance,* is what it is. 

27 ff. They deri-ve, i.e., the substantial forms. The 
work De Causis (translated from the Arabic towards the 
end of the twelfth century) is supposed to be based on a 
work of the Neoplatonic philosopher, Proclus (410-485 
A.D.), and to have been drawn up in the ninth century. 
It is a work of speculative theology of a metaphysical and 
pantheistic turn. Its terminology is not identical with 
that of the Schoolmen, and, except when directly quoting 
it, Dante translates its ideas into the more familiar language 
of the schools ; and he doubtless read into it a much closer 
agreement with the theology of the thirteenth century 
than it really displays. The passage quoted in lines 
33-34 runs : ' Et di'venlficantur honitatei et dona ex concursu 
recipientit' — 'And the excellences and gifts are varied by 
the co-operation of the receiver.' It is noteworthy that 
Dante took the passive di-versificantur as a deponent, 
hence the awkwardness of the phrase, there being no 
subject to the verb make, 

37, Alpetragius. An Arabic astronomer of the twelfth 

56-64. Compare Par(jifw, XXVI. 64-66, and II. 1:36, 

102. Soul. The word anima as used by Dante and the 
Schoolmen cannot be adequately translated. It represents 
Aristotle's ^f/irxv, which means life, that is to say, the 
whole goup of vital phenomena which characterise any 


living being. A plant, being alive, has life of a certain 
limited range ; and a man has life of a wider range, 
manifesting a greater variety of vital phenomena. But 
neither in plant, animal nor man does Aristotle regard the 
■^vxri as an entity, capable of existing apart from the 
living thing. It is in connection with the vovs, Latin, 
intellectus, Italian intelletto or mettte (which is indeed, in 
some sort, fused with the human tpvx^), that the ques- 
tion of immortality and separate existence arises. But in 
their doctrine of the human anima the Schoolmen were 
far from being pure Aristotelians ; for the Platonic 
doctrine of the soul, as a distinct and separable entity, 
harmonised far better than the teaching of Aristotle with 
Christian conceptions. This doctrine they endeavoured 
to read into Aristotle, and therefore the word anima some- 
times means merely life and sometimes soul. If we trans- 
late it soul, and so make Dante speak of a plant having 
a soul, though of a lower order than that of man, the 
impression produced is quite erroneous, for there was no 
such animistic conception as this phrase suggests to us, in 
the minds of the Schoolmen. If, on the other hand, we 
translate it life, it is inadequate whenever the reference is 
to the immaterial and immortal part in man, which can 
only be indicated by the 'soul.' 

107. Mortal things that hanie life. The angels (who 
are * things that have life,' but are not ♦ mortal ') have 
the rational power without the power of sense. See II. 
7, II fF. 

125. The manuscripts say 'the sixth Of the Soul^ 
whereas there are but three books of the De Anima, and 
nothing accurately corresponding to Dante's references 
can be found in any of them. Dr. Moore has pointed 
out that the contrast between the scientjfica and the 
ragionati-va and the identification of the ragionati'va and 
consigliativa are to be found in the sixth book of the 
Ethics, Inventi-va does not appear to be an Aristotelian 
term at all, but it is used by Thomas Aquinas to mean 
the power which ascertains the facts on which judgment 
is to be based, and therefore it is a proper contrast to the 
judicativa. I cannot find that Aquinas uses the term in 
his commentary on this book of the Ethics, but the sub- 
ject-matter of that book is the intellectual virtues, the 
function of which is to ascertain what is that ' right pro- 


portion ' wherein virtue consists ; and elsewhere Aquinas 
frequently says that one of them, viz., prudence, is /«- 
•venti-va medii in ■vlrtutibus moralihus. I am therefore 
inclined to think that Dante has the sixth book of the 
Ethics, and its subject-matter, in his mind. Dr. Moore 
and other editors prefer to read 'the third book Of the 

153. In grammar, i.e., in Latin. 

157, Deity, in the sense of divineness. The mind 
is the part of the soul or life which constitutes its 


[(iii.) Of the kinds and degrees of love and of the 
supreme love of truth and virtue. Then {a) of 
the unulterableness of this supreme love, because 
(a) it bewilders the intellect and {^) it baffles 
the tongue.] 

Of Not without cause do I say that this love plies 
specific hig operation ' in my mind ' ; but this is said with 
^ reason, to give to understand what manner of 
iii. love this is, by telling of the place wherein it 
operates. Wherefore be it known that every- 
thing, as said above, and for the reason above set 
forth, hath its specific love, as, for example, the 
simple bodies have a love which has an innate 
affinity to [lO^ their proper place ; and that is 
why earth ever drops to the centre ; but the love 
of fire is for the upper circumference, under the 
heaven of the moon, and therefore it ever riseth 

Primary compound bodies, like the minerals, 
have a love for the place where their generation 
is ordained ; and therein they grow, and thence 
draw vigour and power. Whence we see the 

and men 


magnet ever receive power from the direction of Plants, 
its [20] generation. ^™*^ 

Plants, which are the primary living things, 
have a more manifest love for certain places, 
according as their composition requires ; and 
therefore we see certain plants almost always 
gather along watercourses, and certain on the 
ridges of mountains, and certain on slopes and 
at the foot of hills, the which, if we transplant 
them, either die altogether or live as if in gloom, 
like things parted [[303 from the place dear to 

As for the brute animals, not only have they a 
more manifest love for their place, but we see 
that they love one another. 

Men have their proper love for perfect and 
comely things. And because man (though his 
whole form be one sole substance) has in himself, 
by his nobility, something of the nature of each 
of these things, he may have all these [[403 loves, 
and has them all indeed. For in virtue of the 
nature of the simple body, which predominates 
in the subject, he naturally loves to descend ; and 
therefore when he moves his body upward it is 
more toilsome. By the second nature, of a com- 
plex body, he loves the place and further the 
time of his generation, and therefore everyone is 
naturally of more efficient body at the place 
where he was generated, and at the time 
of his generation, [^503 than at any other. 
Wherefore we read in the stories of Hercules, 
and in Great Ovid, and in Lucan, and in other 
poets, that, when he was fighting with the giant 
called Antaeus, whenever the giant failed and his 
body was stretched upon the earth, whether of 


Man's his own will or by the might of Hercules, force 
complex j^nd vigour rose up again in him, renovated by 
the earth, wherein and wherefrom he had been 
generated. Perceiving which, [603 Hercules, 
at the last, grasping him and lifting him from the 
earth, held him so long, and suffered him not to 
reunite himself with the earth, that with over- 
mastery he conquered and slew him. And this 
battle was in Africa according to the testimony 
of the scriptures. And by the third nature, to 
wit that of plants, man hath love for certain 
food, not in so far as it affects the sense but in 
so far as it is nutritious ; [[70] and such food 
maketh the working of this nature most perfect ; 
and other food does not so, but makes it im- 
perfect. And therefore we see that some certain 
food shall make men fair of face and stout of 
limb, and of a lively colour ; and certain other 
shall work the contrary of this. And in virtue 
of the fourth nature, that of animals, to wit the 
sensitive, man hath another love whereby he 
loveth according to sensible appearance, like to 
a beast ; and this is the love [^80]] in man which 
most needeth a ruler, because of its overmaster- 
ing operation, especially in the delight of taste 
and touch. And by the fifth and last nature, 
that is to say the truly human or, rather say, the 
angelic, to wit the rational, man hath love to 
truth and to virtue ; and from this love springeth 
the true and perfect friendship, drawn from 
nobility, whereof the Philosopher speaks in the 
[^903 eighth of the Ethics, when he treats of 

Wherefore, inasmuch as this nature is called 
mind, as shown above, I declared that love dis- 


coursed * in my mind ' to give to understand that The 
this love was that which is native to this most ineffable 
noble nature, to wit the love of truth and of *"®"^^ 
virtue, and to exclude every false opinion con- 
cerning me, whereby my love might have been 
suspected to be love [looj for delight of sense. 
And then I say ' yearningly ' to give to under- 
stand its continuity and its fervour. And I say a. 
that he often moveth things which make my 
intellect lose its way ; and I speak truth : because a. 
my thoughts, when discoursing of her, often 
strove to bring things to an issue about her 
which I might not comprehend ; and I was all 
astray, so that outwardly I appeared as though 
distraught, like to a man who looks with his 
sight along a straight line, Qiio^ and first 
clearly sees the things nighest to him ; then, as 
he goes on, sees them less clearly ; then further 
on is at a loss concerning them ; then going on 
even to the furthest of all, his sight is unfocussed 
and he sees nought. 

And this is the one source of the unutterable- 
ness of that which I have taken as my theme. 
And then, in sequence, I tell of the other, when 
I say : ' His discourse,' and the rest. And I /3. 
say that my thoughts (which are the discourse 
of love) have such sweet sound [^120] that my 
soul (that is my affection) burns to be able to 
relate this with the tongue. And because I 
may not tell it, I say that the soul laments y jusj^ 
thereat, saying : 'J Y'" .•, 

Ob me ! that I have not poiver. 

And this is the other source of unutterableness, 
namely that the tongue cannot completely follow 


Hearingf that which the intellect perceives. And I 
and say : 

Metrv ^^'^ ^^"^ ^^^^ heareth him andfeeleth^ 

' heareth ' as touching the words ; and * feeleth ' 
as touching the sweetness of the sound. 

5-8. The reference is presumably to I. i : 4-7. 

37. That is to say, man is a single being (substance), 
and therefore has but one form, although he combines in 
himself the faculties of all the lower beings. Compare 
the somewhat analogous passage in Purgatorio, XXV. 52- 
75 ; and also Purgatorio^ IV. 1-12, where Dante maintains 
the doctrine of a single soul, manifesting various groups 
of vital phenomena. 

41,42. The 'simple body' or element in question is 
earth. But we seem to want ' in his body ' for ' in the 
subject. ' 

51. Great O-vid, i.e., The Metamorfhoscs. 


[_{b) Of the poet's insufficiency in (a) intellect and 
(yS) eloquence, which rests (r) on the correspond- 
ing insufficiency of the faculties of (a) thought and 
(j3) speech. Of a certain objection to the author's 
apology. And of the cause of the insufficiencies 
he alleges.] 

The Having discoursed of the twofold unutterable- 
authors Qess of this subject-matter, it is fitting to proceed 
ciencv ^° ^^^' °^ ^^ °^° insufficiency. I say then that 
my insufficiency hath a twofold origin even as 
■ the loftiness of that lady hath a twofold trans- 
cendency, after the fashion expounded. 
a. For, through poverty of intellect, needs must 
I [10] drop much of that which is true con- 


cerning her, and which rays in some sort into and its 
my mind, which, like a transparent body, re- excuse 
ceives without arresting it. And this I say in 
this following clause : 

jind verily it behoveth me first to drop. 

Then when I say : 

And of that which it understandethy 

I assert that not only am I insufficient for that 
which my intellect cannot support, but even for 
that which I understand, because my [20] 
tongue hath not such eloquence as to be able to 
utter the discourse which is held of her in my ^. 
thought. Whereby it is to be seen that, in pro- 
portion to the truth, that which I shall say will 
be but little, and the outcome of this is greatly 
to her praise if rightly considered, and that is 
the main purpose. And that discourse, which 
at every point has its hand on the main purpose, 
may well be said to come from the workshop of 
the rhetorician. 

[^30] Then where it says : 

Wherefore if defect shall mark my rhymes, 

I excuse myself for my fault, for which, when c. 
folk see that my words are beneath her dignity, 
I ought not to be blamed. And I say that if 
there be defect in my rhymes, that is to say, in 
my words, which are ordained to treat of her, the 
blame must fall upon the weakness of intellect 
and the scant power of our speech, which is a, /3. 
vanquished by the thought, so that [403 it may 
scarce follow it, especially where the thought 
springs from love, because there the soul exer- 
cises herself more profoundly than elsewhere. 


For It might be said, * Thou art excusing and at 
what men the same time accusing thyself,' for it is a con- 
b^ d ^''^tio" o^ blame and not a purgation from it, in 
so far as the blame is thrown upon the intellect 
and upon speech, which are mine, so that if the 
same be good I ought to be praised therefore 
to the extent of the goodness, and [50] if 
defective to be blamed. To this it may be 
answered briefly that I do not accuse myself, 
but do genuinely excuse myself. And hereto 
be it known that, according to the Philosopher 
in the third of the Ethics, man deserves praise or 
blame only for those things which it is in his 
power to do or not to do, but in those things 
wherein he has no power he deserves neither 
praise nor blame, inasmuch as both are to be 
rendered [|6oJ to some other, albeit the things 
themselves be part of the very man. Wherefore 
we should not blame a man because of a body 
deformed from his birth, because it was not in 
his power to make himself beautiful, but we are 
to blame the faulty disposition of the material 
whereof he was made, which was the source of 
the failure of nature. And in like manner we 
should not praise a man for any beauty of body 
which he may have [70] from his birth, for he 
was not the maker thereof; but we ought to 
praise the artificer, to wit human nature, which 
produces such great beauty in its material when 
it is not impeded by it. And therefore the 
priest well answered the emperor who laughed 
and scoffed at his deformity of body : * God is 
the Lord ; he made us, and not we ourselves ' ; 
and these are the words of the prophet in a verse 
of the Psalter, written as they stand [%o~] 


in the priest's answer, without addition or sub- Of thingfs 

traction. And therefore let the ill-conditioned unimagin- 

wretches look to it who make it all their study 

to deck out their person (which should be treated 

with all dignity), for this is nought else than 

to ornament the work of another and neglect 

one's own. 

Returning then to the purpose, I affirm that o. 
our intellect, by defect of that power whence it 
draws whatsoever it contemplates (which is an 
organic power, to wit the fantasy), may £go'] 
not rise to certain things, because the fantasy 
may not aid it, for it hath not wherewithal. 
Such are the substances sejunct from matter, 
which, even though a certain consideration of 
them be possible, we may not understand nor com- 
prehend perfectly. And for this man is not 
to blame, for he was not the maker of this de- 
ficiency ; nay, rather is it the work of universal 
nature, that is, of God, who willed that we 
should lack such [loo^ light in this life ; and 
why he did this it were presumptuous to argue. 
So that if my consideration transported me into 
a region where fantasy failed the intellect, I am 
not to blame for not being able to understand. 
Further, a limit is fixed for our intelligence in /3. 
each one of its operations, not by us but by 
universal nature ; and therefore be it known that 
the limits of intelligence are wider in C^io^ 
thought than in speech, and wider in speech than 
in signals. Therefore, if our thought surpasses 
speech, not only in matters which attain not to 
perfect understanding but also in those which 
only just attain to it, we are not to blame for 
this ; because it is not we who make it so. And 

156 i? THE CONVIVIO Ch. 

Of the thus I show that my excuse is a genuine one 
limits of ^hen I say : 

For this let our feeble intellect be blamed and 

our [|l2o3 speech ivhich hath not power to 

tell again all that love telleth. 

For the goodwill should be right clearly seen, 
and this is what we ought to consider in the 
matter of human deserts. This, then, is how 
we are to understand the first chief section of 
this ode which is in hand, 

58-61. Compare Purgatorio, XVIII. 59-72. Also 
Paradiso, IV. 58-60. 

87-89. Fantasia is the power of combining the scattered 
data of the senses into a connected image, and is shared 
by the animals. It is an * organic power' ; that is to say, 
it has an organ in the brain, whereas the ' intellect ' has no 
physical organ. The fantasia and other organic powers 
furnish material upon which the purely spiritual ' intellect ' 
works. Compare Parj-a/or/o, XXV. 61-66, and Paradiso, 
IV. 40-42. Aristotle makes a striking remark in 
proof of the immaterial character of the 'intellect,' He 
says that whereas the senses, when overwhelmed by excess 
of the thing that they perceive (light, sound, etc.), are 
rendered incapable of receiving small impressions, the 
intellect is rendered keener in the perception of minute 
truths by the perception of great ones. 



[(II.) Of the threefold division of the second section 
in praise of (a) the lady's whole self, {b) her soul 
in especial, and (f) her body in especial. But 
first of the stability of the earth, notwithstand- 
ing that certain have questioned it, and of the 
circling of the sun, in its causes and as affecting 
the several portions of the earth.] 

Now that the discussion of the first section has The 
revealed its meaning, we are duly to proceed to lady's 
the second. Whereof, for its better inspection, threefold 
three divisions should be made according as it is ^ 
embraced in three verses. For in the first I II. 
commend this lady in her entirety and without 
distinction, alike in soul and in body ; in the a, b, c. 
second I come down to the special {_io~\ praise 
of the soul, and in the third to the special praise 
of the body. The first division begins : 

The sun seeth not, ivho circleth all the world; 

the second begins : 

On her descendeth the divine power; 

the third begins : 

Things are revealed in her aspect; 

and these divisions are to be discussed in order. 
I say then : a. 

The sun seeth not, who circleth all the world, 

wherein, for perfect understanding, [_2o] we 
must know how the world is circled by the 

In the first place, I say that by 'the world' I 


Of the do not here understand the whole body of the 

earth's universe, but only this region of sea and land, 

^^^^' according to the common speech, which uses 

60 to call it ; just as one says ' such an one has 

seen all the world,' meaning the region of sea 

and land. 

Pythagoras and his followers declared [303 
that this world was one of the stars, and that 
there was another, of like fashion, opposite to 
it ; and this they called Antichthon. And he 
said that they were both on one sphere which 
turned from east to west, and that it was in 
virtue of this revolution that the sun circled 
round us and was now visible and now invisible. 
And he said that fire was betwixt these two ; 
laying it down that it was a nobler substance 
than water and than earth, and [I403 laying it 
down that the centre was the noblest amongst 
the places of the four simple bodies. And 
therefore he said that fire, when it seemed to 
rise, was really descending to its own centre. 

Afterwards Plato adopted another opinion, 
and wrote, in a book of his which is called 
Timteus, that the earth, with the sea, was really 
the centre of the whole, but that its whole globe 
turned round on its centre, following the primal 
[^50] movement of heaven, but very slowly, 
because of its gross material, and because of its 
extreme distance from that primal movement. 

These opinions are refuted as false in the 
second Of Heaven and Earth by that glorious 
philosopher to whom nature opened her secrets 
more than to any other ; and by him it is there 
shown that this world, to wit the earth, stands 
for ever stable and fixed in herself. And the 


proofs, which Aristotle enunciates to crush [603 or rest 
these others and to establish the truth, it is not 
my purpose here to relate ; because it is enough 
for those whom I am addressing to be assured 
on his great authority that this earth is fixed, 
and revolves not, and that it, together with the 
ocean, is the centre of the heaven. 

This heaven revolves round this centre, as 
we perceive, without break ; in the revolution 
of which there must needs be two fixed poles, 
and a [[703 circle, equally distant from them 
both, which revolves most rapidly. Of these 
two poles the one, that is to say this northern 
one, is apparent to almost all the land which is 
uncovered ; the other, to wit the southern one, 
is concealed from almost all the uncovered land. 
The circle which is perceived midway between 
them is that path of the heaven under which the 
sun revolves when he goes in company with the 
Ram or with the Scales. 

[]8o3 Wherefore be it known that if a stone 
should fall from this our pole, it would fall, 
away yonder, into the ocean, right upon the 
hump of the sea, at the spot where, if there 
were a man, he would always have the star 
right above his head. And I suppose that from 
Rome to this spot, measuring straight to the 
north, there would be a space of some two 
thousand six hundred miles, or a little more or 
less. Let us imagine, then, for our better 
understanding, that there be a city [^903 on 
that spot which I have named, and that it be 
called Maria. 

I say further, that if a stone should fall from 
that other pole, that is the southern one, it 


Poles and would fall upon that hump of the Ocean-sea 
equator which is exactly opposite to Maria on this ball ; 
and I suppose that from Rome to the place where 
that second stone would fall, measuring straight 
to the south, would be a space of six thousand 
five hundred miles, a little [^loo] more or less. 
And here let us imagine another city and let 
it be called Lucia, and the space, in whatever 
direction we draw the cord, would be ten 
thousand two hundred miles between the one 
and the other, just half the circumference of 
this ball, so that citizens of Maria would have 
their feet opposed to the feet of those of Lucia. 
Let us further imagine a circle upon this ball 
which at every point should be [iioj the same 
distance from Maria as from Lucia. I suppose 
that this circle (as I understand by the teachings 
of the astrologers, and by that of Albert of 
Germany in his book Of the Nature of Places 
and of the Properties of the Elements, and also by 
the testimony of Lucan in his ninth book) 
would divide this uncovered land from the 
Ocean, down there towards the south, 
almost along the whole extremity of the first 
climate, [120] where are, amongst other nations, 
the Garamanti, who are almost always naked ; 
to whom Cato came with the people of Rome, 
fleeing the lordship of Cassar. 

When we have marked these three places 
upon this ball it is easy to perceive how ' the 
sun circleth ' it. I say, then, that the heaven 
of the sun revolves from west to east, not 
directly counter to the diurnal movement (that 
is the movement of day and night), but obliquely 
[^130] against it. So that its mid circle, which 


lies symmetrically between its poles, whereon The sun's 
is the body of the sun, cuts the circle of the spiral 
two first poles at two opposite points, to wity --*-*^'*'^ -- 
at the beginning of the Ram and at the begin-? 
ning of the Scales ; and it departs from it along 
two arcs, one toward the north and the other 
toward the south. And the summits of these 
arcs depart equally from the first circle, on 
either side, by twenty- [[140] three degrees and 
a point more ; and one summit is the beginning 
of the Crab and the other is the beginning of 
Capricorn. Wherefore, at the beginning of the 
Ram, when the sun travels beneath the mid 
circle of the first poles, Maria must needs see 
him circling the world around, down upon the 
earth, or the ocean, like a mill-stone, from 
which not more than half his body should 
appear ; and she would see him continually 
rising after the manner of the screw of a C^S^D 
press, until he had completed ninety -one re- 
volutions and a little more. When these re- 
volutions are completed his elevation at Maria 
is about as much as it is for us at mid-tierce, 
when the day and night are equal. And if a. 
man were standing erect ia Maria, with his face 
ever turned to the sun, he would see it ever 
moving toward his right hand. Then, follow- 
ing the same path, he seems to descend for 
another ninety-one circlings and a little more 
until ^1603 he is circling around, down upon 
the earth or the sea, not displaying his whole 
bulk ; and then he passes out of sight and 
Lucia begins to see him, and perceives him 
mounting and descending around her with as 
many circles as Maria does. And if a man 


The mill- were standing erect at Lucia and ever turning 
stone and his face toward the sun, he would see him 
the wheel ploying toward his left hand. Whereby it may 
be perceived that these places have one day in 
the year, (^170^ six months long, and a night 
of equal time ; and when the one has day the 
other has night. 

Again it follows that the circle upon this ball 
where, as already stated, the Garamanti are, 
must see the sun circling right above it, not 
after the fashion of a millstone but of a wheel, 
not more than half of which can be seen in any 
region, when the sun is travelling under the 
Ram. And then it perceives him departing 
from itself and working towards [180] Maria 
ninety-one days and a little more, and returning 
towards itself for as many days ; and then, when 
he has come back, he travels beneath the Scales, 
and again departs and approaches Lucia ninety- 
one days and a little more, and returns during 
as many. And this locality, which girds the 
whole ball, always has the day equal to the night, 
whichever side of it the sun is travelling ; and 
it has twice in the year a most fierce summer of 
heat, and two little winters. It follows further 
that C^9oD ^h^ '^^ spaces intermediate between^^ 
the two imagined cities and the mid-circle must 
see the sun in varied fashion according as they 
are remote or nigh to these places, as may now, 
by what has been said, be perceived by whosoever 
hath a noble intellect, to which it is well to 
leave a little effort. Wherefore it may now 
be seen that, by divine provision, the world is 
so ordained that when the sphere of the sun has 
revolved and returned to Q2003 any point, this 



ball, on which we are placed, has received in Lift up 
its every region an equal time of light and of yow eyes 
darkness. Oh, unutterable wisdom that didst 
tbus ordain, how poor is our raind to comprehend 
thee ; and ye for whose behoof and delight I 
am writing, in what blindness do ye live, not 
lifting up your eyes to these things but keeping 
them fixed upon the mire of your folly ! 

29-52. Without going into the historical question of 
the views of Pythagoras, we can easily see what Dante- 







'.'0 |flC •:.' 





(^ ;ri:-. ,i .(tin •! A^j-.' .1! -.-, 



ri at IV 
/!ii :itio3 orlw ei HqcB' earth 
^EAKI'W"' i ■ ''^"^ t'" ■> ^^'^^ ■■■■nijiftr i-siqianiib 
^^^^ -f.Miir.yom e vi rfl ti;9 ad) '*o ir-.jtn'ivofri .t c^ 

o iri.oq Dif • ":< •■ oj iF.nriVoiq j. icoil qsJc sv'tr./ " .'nit 

understood them to have been. We must note in 'the 
first place that it is the daily (not the annual) apparent 
motion of the sun that is explained by a daily revolution 
of the earth round him ; and in the second place that 
the supposed revolution of the earth is from east to west, 
i.e., in the same direction as the apparent motion of the 
sun. Antichthon, or the counter-earth, is a hypothetical 
second body, introduced for the sake of symmetry, which 
is always exactly opposite to the earth on the other side 
of the sun. The first position marked in the figure 
shows the sun rising to the centre of the inhabited 


hemisphere of the earth, and setting to the corresponding 
spot on Antichthon. The second position shows the 
sun some hours above the horizon on earth and some 
hours below it on Antichthon, and the third positron 
shows midday on earth and midnight on Antichthon.' 
Observe that both earth and Antichthon are uniformly 
nioying counter-clockwise on the paper; and that if 
you suppose the earth to be stationary, and make the, 
sun move counter-clockwise round it, you will get the 
apparent motion of the sun. I.e., the supposed motion of 
the earth is identical in direction with the apparent 
naotion of the sun, not counter to it; in other words it 
is from east to west. 

45-52. Note again that the opinion assigned to Plato 
is not that the earth revolves from west to east, counter 
to the apparent motion of the stars, but that she shares 
in the universal movement from east to west, though, 
owing to her grossness, she moves so slowly that all the 
heavenly bodies sweep round past her, as she responds 
more sluggishly than any of them to the primal move- 
ment. It will be seen from these considerations how 
superficial is the criticism which supposes the opinions 
here attacked by Dante to coincide with those of modern 
astronomy. Nevertheless it is evidence of complete 
emancipation from the tyranny of sense impressions to be 
able to speculate, however crudely, on the possibility of 
celestial phenomena owing their origin to movements of 
the earth ; and philosophers who could inquire on general 
principles whether such and such a phenomenon was due 
to a movement of the earth or a movement of the sun, or 
whether the earth revolved on her axis, had already taken 
the decisive step from a provincial to a cosmic point of 
view. ^ .,., 

84. Tie s^^ar 'ohyiovsly means the pole star, though 
there does riot seem to be any other instance of such 
a uae. 

91-101. It does not appear what special mystic mean- 
ing, if any, Dante had in his niind in naming these 
supposed cities at the north and south poles Maria and 
Lucia; but it is interesting to note the direct association 
of St. Lucy with the Virgin Mary in Dante's deliverance, 
as recorded in the Comedy, See Infernoy.ll, 94-102, and 
Purgatorio, IX. 52-57. 


113. Albert of Germafiy, generally known as Albertus 
Magnus. He was teacher of Thomas Aquinas (122,7- 
1274 A.D.), whom he survived, dying in 1280 a.d. 

119. There was a difference of usage amongst 
mediaeval geographers as to the cltmata. Alfraganus, 
Dante's usual authority in such matters, makes the first 
' climate ' begin at a latitude of 20J degrees, but others 
made it begin at the equator ; and in this passage Dante 
seems to follow them, and to mean that land extends 
as far south as the equator, but no further, and that it 
is almost exactly bounded by the ocean along the whole 
equatorial line. 

122. The people of Rome, The Italian popolo is here 
almost equivalent to * republican government.' 

133. The circle of the two first poles, i.e., the celestial 
equator, equi-distant from the two poles. 

142-269. There is a little dffficulty in the imagery 
here, though the whole meaning is perfectly plain. The 
images of the horizontal motion of a millstone and the 
vertical motion of a wheel must refer not to the body 
of the sun but to his whole circulation. He circles with 
the horizontal movement of a millstone when seen from 
the north or south pole, and with the vertical motion of 
a wheel when seen from the equator. In the first case 
ohly half the body of the sun is seen, in the second 
case only half the wheel. In line 147 I read dalla quale 
for dell'a quale. 

144. Beneath,hec2Mie the equator, on the starry Sphere, 
is an immense height above him. ;r 

154. The highest elevation of the sun, as seen' from. ^ ■ 
the south pole, would be about 23^ degrees; and as the' _ ' 
sun moves through 15 degrees in an hour and at t^^-.^n-jm 
equinox rises nearly vertically ,in the early hours, by,^^,, t , . 
middle-tierce (half-past seven) he would be nearly 22^^^" 
degrees above the horizon. The measure is not intended 
to be exact. 

167. Tovards his left hand. Itzlian . dallo iraccio 
sinistra. ■ There is a curious ambiguity in the 
preposition da when used of direction. It may 
mean either from or to. Here it means to. A man 
standing \n Maria wo\AA see the sun move clockwise, 
towards his right; one standing in Lar/a would see him 
moving counter-clockwise, towards his left. It is 


interesting to note that Aristotle who holds that move- 
ment naturally starts from the right, regards the facts 
here insisted on as a proof that the south pole is really 
th6 top of the eairth, and that it is a local prejudice of 
ours, contradicting the truth, to think that we are 
standing right way up and the antipodes wrong way. 
Perhaps this is why Dante places the earthly Paradise 
(and therefore Purgatory) in the southern hemisphere, 
and lays such stress on the direction in which the sun 
was moving there. 

aTsr! .;i ^i '\:>\ li.Mr.U sriT '•ni5\ > 

.mMe:H->AP^TiE«oVX ■■ 

^a) The general pfafee' of his'ladjTfa^ al)oiv^;^tI ^S?. 

.' ly t)f temporal and equal hours. Of the general 

praise of his lady (/S) in herself, who is the 

prototype in the mind of . God of perfect 

humanity, and as such is gazed on by the angels 

"^ , who produce the human form. On earth the 

1 ^j' desire for her. is never sated, seeing that none 

^ ,. may here reach perfection, God of his free 

hr~ grS'Ce gives to her in excess of tlie due of even 

perfect humanity, and her soul, so gifted, shining 

through her body, wakes holy longings in them on 

whom she shines.] 

The In the preceding chiapter it has beeoi shown in 

author ^hat way. the sun circles ; so that we may now 

mends P^^'^^^'i ^^ explain the meaning of the division 

his lady which we are considering. I say then that in 

this first division I begin to commend this lady 

°- by comparing her with other things. And I 

say that the sun, circling the world, sees not 

anything so noble as her; [^lo] wherefore it 

follows that she, according to these words, is 

the most noble of all the things that the sun 

shines upon. And I say : : . ■,'' - ) 

In thai /jour, and ^hie r^'s'i'. " ' 



Wherefore be it known that * hour ' is under- Hours 

stood in two ways by the astronomers, one by ^■^^ 

making twenty-four hours of the day and night, 

to wit twelve of the day and twelve of the 

night, whether the day be long or short. And 

these hours are short or long in the day or 

in the night according as day or night [|2oJ 

waxes or wanes. And these hours the church 

uses when she says primes, tierce, sext and 

nones, and these are called the temporal 

hours. The other is to make day and night 

twenty-four hours, of which the day one while 

has fifteen hours and the night nine, and another 

while the night sixteen and the day eight, 

according as day or night waxes or wanes ; and 

these are called equal hours. And ever at the 

equinox these, and those which C30]] are called 

temporal, are one and the same thing ; because 

the day being equal to tbe nigjbt it must needs 

so be. 'oq J£;h ^d obfira boj; 

tu- Then when I say : 0*''; ni sh--^' iserigi^ 

»l3il -,^i ,. ,/' ,<rij :•! ., d^fw 

jbvery supernal tnfeiiect gazes upon oer, , 

I commend her without reference to aught else, P- 
and I say that the Intelligences of heaven marvel 
at her, and that noble folk down here below 
think of her when they have most of that which 
is their delight. And here be it known that 
every C403 supernal intellect, according as it is 
written in the book Of Causes, hath knowledge of 
that which is above itself, and of that which is 
below itself. It hath knowledge, then, of God, 
as its cause ; it hath knowledge, then, of that 
which is beneath it as its effect. And because 
God is the most universal cause of all things, by 


Angels having knowledge of him they liave knowledge 
and the of all things according to the measure of intelli- 
lorm ot ggjj(,g_ Wherefore all the Intelligences have 
knowledge of the [^^oj human form in so far as 
it is regulated by intention in the divine mind. 
But the motor Intelligences have highest know- 
ledge of it, because they are the most especial 
causes of it and of every general form. And 
they know it as perfectly as can possibly be, even 
as their rule and example. And if the iiuman 
form itself, when copied and individuated, is not 
perfect, the defect is not of the example [|6o] 
but of the material, which is individual. Where- 
fore when I 8ajr:r;!E nasj ; 

Every supernal iniellect gazes upon her ^ 

'Lwould say nought else save that she is made 
as she is, even as the intentional example of the 
human essence, which is in the divine mind ; 
and made by that power which exists in 
highest degree in those angelic minds which, 
with the heavens, fashion these things here 

And in confirmation of this I go on and 
i £70^1 say :o 

' ' AH4 sinch folk as are here enamoured^ and 

^thfeTe^,"\"'.'^- ■■™. -\'?'^\ 

!.■! f: ■. < r< •: fr • ■ M ; .; ' 

where you are to know that each thing most 
chiefly desires its own perfection, wherein its 
every longing is stilled, and it is for its sake 
that any other thing is desired. And it is this 
longing which always makes every delight seem 
defective to us ; for no delight in this life is 
so great as to be able to take away the thirst 


from our soul, so that the longing spoken of The 
shall [80] not remain in our thought. And '^isdom 
since this lady is in very truth that perfection, I ° '^^ 
affirm of the folk that here below receive the 
greatest delight, that when they are most at 
peace she still abides in their thoughts. Where- 
by. I assert that she is as perfect as the human 
^eence can supremely be. 
01 Then when I say : 

Her being is to him <who gives it to her so pleasin^y 

I show that not only [_go~\ is this lady the most 
perfect in the human generation, but more than 
most perfect, in so far as she receives of the 
divine excellence beyond the due of humanity. 
Whence we may reasonably believe that as every 
master loves his best work more than the rest, 
so God loves the best human person more than 
all the rest. And since his generosity is not 
confined by the necessity of any [[100] limit, 
his love hath not regard to the due of him 
who receiveth it, but surpasses it in the gift and 
benefaction of power and of grace. Whence I 
say here that God himself, who gives her 
being, for love of her perfection, infuses of his 
excellence into her beyond the limits of the due 
of our nature. 

Then when I say : 

Her pure soul;, 

I prove what has been said by the [no^ testi- 
mony of sense ; where you are to know that, as 
saith the Philosopher in the second Of the Soul, 
the soul is the actualising of the body ; and if it 
is its actualising it is its cause ; and (because, 


Soul and as is written in the book 0/ Causes already cited, 
body every cause infuses into its effect some of the 
'^'^'"' excellence which it receives from its own cause) 
it infuses and renders to its body something of 
the excellence of its cause, which is God. 
Wherefore, inasmuch as wondrous things are 
perceived in her under ^^203 the bodily aspect, 
so as to make everyone who looks on her long 
to behold them, it is manifest that her form, to 
wit her sou], which guides the body as its 
'pfoper cause, miraculously receives the gracious 
^excellence of God. And so do I prove, by 
this her appearance, that beyond the due of our 
nature (which in her is most perfect as has been 
said above) this lady has been endowed and 
(^130] ennobled by God. And this is all the 
literal meaning, of:the first division of the second 
main sectionv.TJ'; nr.muii ie^a ad.} so /of boO oe 

53-55. Here, if I understand him, Dante represents the 
angels as taking part in the creation of the human soul, 
which is quite contrary to his mature doctrine as repre- 
sented in the Comedy. Compare Purgatcrio, XXV. 70-75 ; 
Paradisoyl. 73-75, and especially Paradiso^Yll. 139-144. 
63-6S. The text, as it stands, seems (to me) obscure 
and hardly translatable. 

'" 64. Intentional. That is''iexi8tfn^'ih tfi'e divirfe ji^iiid, as 
'^he intention of the Deity.' ' • "'^'' '■ ' "' • 

80-85. There appears to be some uncertainty in Dante's 
treatment of this passage of his ode. In III. 13 : 21 fF. he 
expounds it (doubtless in harmony with the original inten- 
tion) as meaning that it is just when men experience the 
peace of love that they are most enamoured of philosophy ; 
but here, taking advantage of the ambiguity of the word 
ancorOf he seems to expound it as meaning that, even 
when most at peace, souls have still an unsatisfied long- 
ing for wisdom. So that, in the one case he represents 
their yearning towards wisdom as being there in con- 
sequence of their peace, and in the other in spite of it. 


88-107. Throughout this whole section of the com- 
mentary there appears to be a certain inconsistency of 
treatment. The lady of Dante's love is primarily the 
divine wisdom, secondarily the wisdom of angels an<l of 
men, and derivatively the concrete knowledge (sciences) 
which form the body or content of human wisdom. So 
far there is a satisfactory unity of conception ; but the 
personification of Philosophy in the ode necessitates the 
treatment of her as an ideal human personality, of perfect 
grace and beauty, which brings us onto quite another 
plane ; and, further, the reaction of these two conceptions 
upon each other produces a third, namely that of the,_, ■>'— rCi 
divine prototype of humanity as existing in the divm'e J;^ ,'' . ^. , 
mind, the Platonic idea of man, or the divine intentiobj, J; ' 
with respect to man. Thus the subject-matter of the'""" 
ode becomes a wavering conception which is sometimes.'- 
focussed as the Second Person of the Trinity (compare IJI. ^ j, 
14 : 63 fF., 15 : 182-184), sometimes as one of the vary- 
ing degrees of abstract wisdom, sometimes as concrete 
knowledge, sortietimes as ideal humanity, and sometimes 
as an ideal and perfect human being. The student of 
the Comedy will note the much firmer and more consist- 
ent handling of the several aspects in the conception of 
Beatrice (towards which Dante is here feeling his way, 
though in the person of her supposed rival) ; and he will 
further notice the perfect harmony with which the corre- 
sponding aspects of the conception of Virgil are united in 
the presentation of his personality. ^ 

112. The soul is the actualising of the body. Compare 
II. 14 : z6, note, and III. 11 : 54, note. The body is 
only potentially a human body unless animated by a 
human soul, or life, which actualises its potentialities. 
J 124. The soul is the form of man, his body, is '^Ijlt 
j^which she guides.' .;j. ..1 

-» 'j6 lost J 

no ei rfsfdw ifiwe sdl ')o lA^ti arfj etas aW '.nog 



[(6) Of the praise of his lady's Soul, (a>in itself and 
(j3) in its working upon others, (a) Of degrees 
of illumination, and of the supreme illumination 
of his lady. Ho\^' the same may be discerned. 
(/3) How her excellence may (i.) teach nobleness 
to other ladies, and may (ii.) confirm the faith 

vjiijo^f all such as doubt.] 

Praise of After commending this lady generally, with 
his lady's reference both to the soul and to the body, I go 
^°^^ on to commend her specially with reference to the 
d. soul. And first I commend her according as 
a, /3. her excellence is great in herself; then I com- 
mend her according as her excellence is great 
upon others and useful to the world. And this 
second division begins where I say : 

Of her it may be said. 

o.j.i X^o] I say, then, first : 

-;'. >5 "^ 'QfiHgr-descifndeth the divine fioiver. 

Where be it known that the divine excellence 
descends upon all things, and otherwise they 
could not exist ; but although this goodness 
springs from the most simple principle, it is 
diversely received, in greater or smaller measure, 
by the things that receive it. Wherefore it is 
written in the book Of Causes : ' The primal ex- 
cellence makes its excellences flow upon things 
with one flowing ' ; [^203 but each thing re- 
ceives of this flowing according to the fashion of 
its power and of its being, and of this we may 
have an example patent to the senses from the 
sun. We see the light of the sun, which is one. 


derived from a single source, diversely received Of lumin- 
by the several bodies ; as Albertus says in that osity 
book he has made On the in^^Z/fr^, that certain 
substances, because they have large measure of the 
clearness of the transparent niingled in their com- 
position, so soon as the sun [^30] sees them become 
So luminous that their aspect consists in the multi- 
plication of the light in them, and they cast a 
great splendour from themselves upon other sub- 
stances ; as are gold and certain stones. Certain 
there are which, because they are altogether dia- 
phanous, not only receive the light, but without 
impeding it render it again, coloured with their 
colour, to other things. And certain there are 
so supreme in the purity of their [^403 transpar- 
ency as to become so radiant that they vanquish' 
the temper of the eye, and cannot be looked on 
without trouble of the sight ; as are mirrors. 
Certain others are so completely without trans- 
parency that they receive but little of the light ; 
as is earth. In like manner the excellence of 
God is received after one fashion by the sejunct 
substances, to wit the angels, which are without 
grossness of material, as though diaphanous, in 
virtue of the purity of their [50] form ; and 
after another fashion by the human soul, which, 
although on one side it is free from material on 
another side is impeded (like a man who is im- 
mersed in the water all except his head, of 
whom it cannot be said that he is all in the 
water or all out of it) ; and after another fashion 
by animals whose soul is entirely embraced in 
material, but I speak of it in the measure to 
which it is ennobled ; and after another fashion 
by the minerals ; and by the earth, [60] other- 

174 '-■ THE C0NVIVI03HT Ck. 

-n, No wise than by the other elements; because it is 
gaps in tije most material, and therefore the most remote 
" and most out of proportion to the prime, most 
simple, and most noble power, which -aloDe is 
intellectual, to wit, God. , cir.v -idl 'io «« jniK''' 
And though here it is the general degrees 
that are laid down, nevertheless individual 
degrees may also be laid down, inasmuch as, of 
human souls, one receiveth otherwise than 
another. And because in the [70] intellectual 
order of the universe the ascent and descent is 
by almost continuous steps, from the lowest form 
to the highest and from the highest to the lowest 
(as we see is the case in the sensible order), and 
between the angelic nature, which is an intel- 
lectual thing, and the human soul there is no 
intermediate step, but the one is, as it were, con- 
tinuous with the other in the order of steps ; and 
between the human soul and the most perfect 
soul of the brute animals there is [^SoJ also no 
intermediary, and we see many men so vile and 
of such base condition as scarce to seem other 
than beasts ; in like manner we are to lay it 
down, and firmly to believe, that there be some 
so noble and of so lofty condition as to be scarce 
other than angels ; otherwise the human species 
would not be continued in either direction, which 
may not be. Such as these Aristotle, in the sixth 
of the Ethics, calls [90] divine, and such I assert 
this lady to be ; so that the divine virtue de- 
scends upon her, after the fashion wherein it 
descends upon an angel. 
Then when I say : 

^«k/ tuhatsqever gentle lady not believeth thit, . 



I prove it by the experience which may be had Of speech 
of her in those doings which are proper to the 
rational soul, wherein the divine light most freely 
rays ; that is to say, in speech and in expression, 
which we are wont to call [looj gestures and 

Whence you are to know that man alone 
amongst the animals speaks and has gestures and 
expression which we call rational, because he alone 
has reason in him. And if anyone should say 
in contradiction that certain birds talk, as seems 
to be the case with some, especially the magpie 
and the parrot, and that certain beasts have 
expression or gestures, as the ape and some 
others seem to have, 1 answer Qi 10] that it is not 
true that they speak, nor that they have gestures, 
because they have no reason, from which these 
things must needs proceed ; nor have thfey the 
principle of these things within them, nor do they 
understand what it is ; nor do they purpose to 
signify anything by them, but they merely repro- 
duce what they see and hear. Wherefore, even 
as the image of bodies is reproduced by certain 
shining things (for instance, a mirror), [1203 
and the corporeal image that the mirror displays 
is not real, so the semblance of reason, namely 
the expression and the speech which the bftitef 
beast reproduces ot displays, is liot reaL ' -■ 

w<I say that • • '-••^' .-ianuldmaa •>( ; m ^ 

It Whatsoever, gmtle Iq4y. not beUeveth 

what I assert, is to ' '■ -• • • ■• 

Go iv'tth her and mark welt her gettdru^ ■■-. 

I^'say not ' whatsoever man,' because the 6X- 


Profitable perience may be gained in more comely fashion 
to eternal by woman than by man. And I tell that [i 30] 
® which will be perceived concerning her, in her 
company, by telling the effect of her speech 
and the effect of her bearing. For her speech, 
by its loftiness and by its sweetness, begets in the 
mind of him who hears it a thought of love 
(which I call a celestial spirit, because its origin 
is from above, and from above cometh her teach- 
ing, as hath been told already), from which said 
thought proceeds the firm belief that she is [140J 
a miraculous lady of power. And her gestures, 
by their sweetness and their harmony, make 
love wake and come to consciousness, wherever 
his potentiality has been sown by a sound nature. 
Which natural sowing comes about as is set forth 
in the following treatise, 
t And when I say, m 

'^- ^'Ofifei^iie^mavie said,. and the rest, " 

01 '^o'lif.j /■.if!i .^T; .(! ■ • : *• ' ' "'J 

I purpose to narrate how the excellence and power 

of her soul is good and profitable to others ; and, 

i. first, is profitable to other £150^ ladies'-^ 

say»ig: .; ;c - . '. '■ ;; ; : ' 's 

G^ntleifihat in lady tvhich in her isfound^^^. 

where I render a manifest example to women, 
gazing upon which they may, by following it, 
ii. make a gentle semblance. Secondly, I tell how 
she is profitable to all folk, saying that her aspect 
aideth our faith, which is profitable more than all 
other things to the human race, as that whereby 
we escape from |[i6o3 eternal death and acquire 
eternal life. And it helps our faith because, 
inasmuch as the chiefest foundation of our faith 


is the miracles wrought by him who was crucified Aids to 
(which same created our reason and willed that faith 
it should be inferior to his power), and wrought 
afterwards in his name by his saints, and inas- 
much as many are so stubborn as to doubt of 
these same miracles, with some certain shade of 
doubt, who may not believe [^1703 any miracle 
unless they have experience of the same ; and 
inasmuch as this lady is a thing visibly miraculous, 
whereof the eyes of men may take daily experi- 
ence, and which may assure us of the possibility of 
the others, it is manifest that this lady, with her 
wondrous aspect, 'aideth our faith.' And there- 
fore finally I say that * from eternity ' — that is 
to say, eternally — she was ordained in the mind 
of God in testimony of the [^180] faith to those osiriT 
who live in these times. And this ends the' ^'^' f 
second division of the second chief section 
according to its literal meaning. -- 

50. Angels are pure form. Compare Paradito,XXiX: 

51 fF. Compare Purgatorio, XVIII. 49 f., and note. 

58. But I speak ofit, etc., i.e., but I speak in each case 
of the degree (whatever it may be) in which the nobility 
of these creatures enables them to receive of the divine 
excellences spoken of in line 46. 

69-88. Compare IV. 19: 52-56. 

104-124. Compare De Vulgari Eloquentia, I. 2 : 43-65. 

137-138. Presumably the reference is to the declaration 
in Ode I. 13 and in II. 7 : 88-100, that the spirit who 
discoursed of Dante's second love came upon the rays of 
the star. 

145. See IV. 21 : 1-48. 



[{c) Of the body as the instrument of the soul. Of 
the foretaste of heavenly bliss that may be drawn 
from looking upon the bodily semblance of his 
lady, and especially in her eyes and in her smile, 
wherein her soul as it were flits and flashes, and 
the adornments of which are placed there by 
special act of love in obedience to his universal 
principle of guiding all things to the place 
where they belong. The author excuses himself 
for his scant speech of what (i.) transcends and 
(ii.) bewilders his intellect ; and since we may not 
treat of such things in themselves he discourses 
somewhat of their marvellous effect, transforming 
vice to virtue, as was purposed by God himself.] 

Three Amongst the effects of the divine wisdom man 
natures is the most marvellous, seeing how the divine 
in man pQ^gf has united three natures in one form, and 
how subtly his body must be harmonised for 
such a form, having organs for almost all its 
powers. Wherefore, because of the complex 
harmony amongst so many organs which is 
required to make them perfectly answer to one 
another, few of all the great number C^*^] ^^ 
men are perfect. And if this creature be so 
marvellous, verily we must fear to treat of the 
conditions of the same, not only in words but 
even in thought, according to those words of 
Ecclesiasticus : * The wisdom of God, preceding 
all things, who hath searched out ? ' and those 
others where it saith : ' Seek not out things that 
are too high for thee, and search not out things 
too hard for thee, but whatsoever things God 
hath commanded, think thereupon ; and in his 
further [20]] works be not curious,' that is 


anxious. I, then, who in this third section Praise of 
purpose to speak of certain conditions of such a his lady's 
being (in so far as in her body, by reason of the P^'^^o'* 
excellence of her soul, sensible beauty appeareth) 
timorously, and with no hardihood, purpose to 
begin to untie so great a knot, if not entirely yet 
at least in some measure. 

I say, then, that after revealing the meaning c. 
of this section, wherein [303 this lady is com- 
mended under the aspect of her soul, we are to 
proceed, and are to consider how I commend 
her under the aspect of the body, when I say : 

Things are revealed In her aspect. 

And I say that in her aspect things appear 
which reveal of the pleasures (amongst the rest) 
of Paradise. The most noble thing, and that 
which is written down as the goal of all others, 
is to be satisfied, and this is being blessed ; and 
\_4fO'} this pleasure is verily (although in another 
way) in her aspect ; for, by gazing upon her, 
folk are satisfied (so sweetly doth her beauty 
feed the eyes of those who look upon her), but 
in another fashion than by the satisfaction of 
Paradise, which is unbroken ; for this may not 
come to any. 

And since some might ask where this wondrous 
pleasure [50] appears in her, I distinguish in 
her person two parts wherein human pleasure 
and displeasure are most apparent. Wherefore 
you are to know that in whatsoever part the 
soul doth most of her office, this she most 
fixedly purposes to adorn, and worketh most 
subtly upon it. Whence we see that in the 
face of man, wherein she doth more of her office 


Eyes and than in any other external part, she designeth so 
smile subtly [|6o3 that, by reason of her refining 
there to the utmost capacity of her material, no 
one face is like to any other ; because the dis- 
tinguishing potentiality of the matter, which is, 
in a way, unlike in every individual, is here 
reduced to actuality. And inasmuch as the soul 
operates in the face chiefly in two places, because 
in these two places the three natures of the soul 
have some kind of jurisdiction, to wit in the 
eyes and in the mouth, it chiefly [70] adorns 
these, and there sets its whole purpose of beauti- 
fying, if it may. And in these two places I 
a, p. say that these pleasures appear, saying : 

,,/.', In her eyes and in her siueet smile. 

Which two places by a beautiful simile may be 
called the balconies of the lady who dwelleth in 
the edifice of the body, to wit the soul, because 
here, albeit in a measure veiled, she doth many 
times reveal herself, 
a. [80] She revealeth herself in the eyes so 
manifestly that her present emotion may be 
recognised by whoso closely looketh there. 
Wherefore, since there are six emotions proper 
to the human soul, whereof the Philosopher 
makes mention in his Rhetoric, to wit, grace, 
jealousy, pity, envy, love and shame, by none 
of these may the soul be impassioned without the 
semblance thereof appearing at the window of 
the eyes, unless it be [_<^o~\ shut within by great 
exertion of power. Whence ere now certain 
have plucked out their eyes lest their inward 
shame should outwardly appear, as Statius the 
poet tells of the Theban CEdipus when he says 


that 'with eternal night he solved his convicted Of seemly 
shame.' laughter 

It is revealed in the mouth, like a colour /3. 
behind glass. And what is laughter save a 
coruscation of the delight of the soul, that is to 
say, a light appearing outwardly [looj according 
as it exists within ? And therefore it is fitting 
that a man, in order to show his soul moderate 
in merriment, should laugh in moderation, with a 
dignified severity, and with slight movement of 
his features ; so that the lady who is then 
revealed, as said above, may appear modest and 
not dissolute. Wherefore the book 0/" /^^ Fo«r 
Cardinal Virtues bids us observe this : * Let 
thy laughter be without cachinnation,' that is 
to say, without clucking like [|iio3 a hen. Ah ! 
wondrous laughter of my lady, whereof I speak, 
which is never perceived save by the eye ! 

And I say that love conveys these things 
to her there as to their proper place. And 
here love may be considered in two ways. 
Firstly the special love of the soul for these 
places ; and secondly the universal love which 
disposes things to love and to be loved, and 
which ordains the soul [120] to adorn these 

Then when I say : 

They transcend our intellect, 

I plead my excuse for seeming to utter but 
little (when I dwell upon it) of so great 
excellence of beauty ; and I affirm that I say so 
little of it for two reasons. The one is that the 
things which appear in her aspect * transcend 
our intellect,' to wit the intellect of man ; and I 


The tell the manner of this transcending, which is 
_ baffled after the fashion wherein C1303 the sun 
transcends feeble vision, not only that wherein 
he transcends the sound and strong. The 
other is that the said intellect may not fixedly 
gaze on it, because the mind becomes intoxicated 
there, so that straightway after gazing it goes 
astray in all its activities. : 

Then when I say : i 

i^ . b 

f, . Her beauty rains doivn Jlamelets of fire ^ ^ 

I have recourse to treating of its effect, since it 
is impossible to treat completely of itself. 
Wherefore you are to know that all r^40l] 
those things that overcome our intellect, so that 
it cannot see what they are, are most suitably 
treated in their effects. Whence, treating thus of 
God, and of his sejunct substances, and of first 
matter, we may have a certain knowledge. And 
therefore I say that 

Her beauty rains doiun Jlamelets ofjire^ 

to wit the ardour of love and of charity, eni» 
souled by a gentle spirit, that is to say the 
ardour informed by a gentle [^1503 spirit, to wit 
right appetite, by the which and from the 
which springs the beginning of good thoughts. 
And it not only makes this but it unmakes 
and destroys its opposite, to wit the innate vices 
which are chief foes to good thoughts. 

And here we are to know that there are 
certain of the vices in a man whereto he is 
naturally disposed, as, for instance, some men in 
virtue of a choleric complexion are disposed to 


anger; and H^^^D ^"^^ vices are in-born or Of inborn 
co-natural. Others are vices of hiabit for which '^}^^^ 
not complexion but habit is to blame; for''^ " 
instance intemperance, especially in wine. And 
these vices are to be escaped and overcome by 
good habit, whereby a man so becomes virtuous 
that his moderation needs no effort, as saith the 
Philosopher in the second of the Ethics. But 
there is this difference [170]] between co-natural 
passions and those of habit, that those of habit 
disappear entirely on the strength of good habit, 
because their source, to wit the bad habit, is 
destroyed by its opposite ; but the co-natural 
ones, the source of which is in the nature of him 
who experiences the passion, though they may 
be much lightened by good habit, never entirely 
disappear so far as their first movement is con- 
cerned, but do completely CiSo] disappear so 
far as their enduring is concerned ; because habit 
is not an equipoise to the nature wherein is 
their source. And therefore that man deserves 
more praise who, though of bad natural dis- 
position, corrects and rules himself contrary to 
the impulse of his nature, than he who being 
good by natural disposition retains himself in 
good conduct or recovers the way when he has 
lost it ; just as it is worthy of more praise to 
manage an intractable horse than another which 
is not vicious. I say then that [^190] these 
flamelets which rain from her beauty, as has 
been said, shatter the innate, that is the co- 
natural vices, to give to understand that her 
beauty has power to make a new nature in those 
who gaze upon it, which is a miraculous thing. 
And this confirms what is said above in the 


God- next preceding chapter when I say that she 

given is the supporter of our faith, 
example pj^^jjy ^j^^^ j ^^^ . 

Whatsoever [_zoo~\ lady heareth ker beauty; 

under colour of an admonition I draw a con- 
clusion as to the end whereto so great beauty was 
made. And I say that whatever lady hears her 
beauty blamed for defect is to gaze upon this most 
perfect example ; wherein it is to be understood 
that this said example was made not only to 
improve the good but also to make a good thing 
out of an evil one. 
And it adds in fine : 

Of her ivas he thinking 'who set the universe 
in motion, 

that is God, to give to [210] understand that 
nature produced such an effect by divine deter- 
mination. And thus ends all the second main 
section of this ode. 

""■3,4. Three natures in one form. I.e., three groups of 
vital phenomena (the vegetative, the animal, and the 
rational), in one soul. The rational soul (which is the 
'form' of man) draws into itself all the other vital 
functions. See Purgatorio, XXV. 70-75. 

39. On the conception of satisfaction as distinct from 
satiety, see the Paradise generally, and especially XXIV. 
1-3 and XXXI. 17, with the argument. The passage 
that follows, up to line 47, is somewhat blurred, since 
Dante wishes on the one hand to insist on the superlative 
quality of the joy of union with Philosophy, and on the 
other hand to guard against appearing to maintain that 
consummate bliss is attainable on earth. Compare IV. 
22 : 205, note. 

62. The matter out of which one human body" is 
made coincides in most of its capacities or potentialities 
with that out of which another is made : but it has 


certain special capacities of its own, and in fashioning 
the face nature avails herself of these to the uttermost. 

68. In the eyes and mouth the ordinary nutritive 
processes of the body at large are operative as elsewhere ; 
they are also sense organs of sight and taste ; and, further, 
they are organs of expression of the intellectual and 
spiritual life, and consequently all the three divisions of 
life — vegetative, animal and rational — work upon them. 

90. Compare Par^tffor/o, XXI. 103-111. 

94-95. Thebait, I. 47, Menerat aeterna damnatum nocte 
pudorem, = '' He had hidden away his shame, sentenced to 
eternal night.' Once again Dante has mistranslated. 

108. The book on the Four Cardinal Virtues, generally 
attributed to Seneca in the middle ages (compare De 
MonarcAia,ll. 5 : 24), was composed by the Spanish bishop, 
Martinus Dumensis, in the sixth century (Toynbee). 

1 1 5- 1 20. With this distinction between universal and 
special love compare the distinction between universal and 
particular nature in I. 7 : 53-58, text and tiole. 

137 ff. I take suo and lei to refer to he/ta, 

150. RigAt appetite. Compare IV. 22 : 31 fF. 

181. Dr. Moore would strike out the noti of the MSS., 
but this, I think, would give a looser sense. 
* 185. Compare Purgatorio, XVI. 73-81. 
lAi ■ 


[(III.) The author, defending his ode from the seeming 
contradiction of a certain ballad of his, states that 
seeming contradiction, explains it, and exhorts 
his ode how to act. (a) Of the accusations of 
^,, scorn that the ballad makes against this lady. 
(b) Of delusive appearances and of forms of speech 
, ' based thereon. The explanation, by an analogy, 

of the accusation of the ballad.] 
■jii.? -: >■■• 

The arrangement of the present treatise requires An 
(now that two parts of this ode have first been explana- 
explained according to my intention) that we 
proceed to the third, wherein I intend to clear 


The sister the ode of an accusation that might have told 
ballad against her. It is this, that before I came to 
III. compose this ode, thinking that this lady [[loj 
had become somewhat stern and haughty towards 
me, I made a little ballad wherein I called this 
lady proud and pitiless, which appears contrary 
to what is said of her here above. And there- 
fore I turn to the ode, and under colour of 
teaching her how she must excuse herself, 
I excuse her. And this is a figure (when 
inanimate things are addressed) which is called 
by the rhetoricians prosopopceia, and [20] the 
poets very frequently employ it. 

l.-.iK !SH. 

' •:•; lOde it seemeth that thy speech is counter, 
and the rest. 

Now the better to give the meaning of this to be 
understood I must divide it into three sections, 
for in the first is set forth the thing which 
a, b, c. needs excusing ; then the excuse is proceeded 
with when I say : 

Thou hnonvest that the heaven; 

finally I address the ode as a person instructed 
as to what is to be done, when I say : 

Thus [^303 plead thy excuse if thou have need. 

a. So I say first : ' Thou ode, who dost speak of 
this lady with so much praise, it seems that thou 
art contrary to a sister of thine.' I say 'sister ' 
by similitude, for as a woman begotten by the 
same begetter is called sister, so may a man 
call a work that is done by the same doer a 
sister ; for our doing [^40] is in a kind of way 
begetting. And I say why she seems counter 


to the other, saying : ' Thou makest her humble Common 
and the other made her proud,' that is to say, sensibles 
haughty and disdainful, which is the same thing. 

Having set forth this accusation I go on to b. 
the excuse, by means of an analogous instance, 
wherein sometimes the truth is at discord with 
the appearance, and, under sundry aspects, may 
be differently spoken of. I say: - : 

Thou knoivest that the heaven is ever shining 
and clear y 

that is to say, it never loses its brightness ; but 
for [503 certain reasons it is sometimes per- 
missible to speak of it as being darkened. Where 
be it known that the proper objects of sight are 
colour and light, as Aristotle has it in the second 
Of the Soul and in the book Of Sense and its 
Object. It is true that other things are visible, 
but they are not the proper objects of sight, 
because some other sense perceives them, so that 
they cannot be called proper to sight, nor proper 
to touch ; and such are shape, \_()0'] size, 
number, movement, rest, which we call 'sen- 
sibles,' and which we perceive with more than 
one sense. But colour and light are properly 
visible, because we apprehend them by sight 
alone, that is to say, with no other sense. 
These visible things, both proper and common, 
in so far as they are visible, pass into the eye, 
(I do not mean the things themselves, but their 
forms) through the diaphanous medium [703 
(not in reality but in intention), much as in trans- 
parent glass. And in the water which is in the 
pupil of the eye this passage which the visible 
form makes through the medium is completed, 


Of vision because this water is bounded, something like a 
mirror, which is glass with lead behind it ; so 
it cannot pass any further on, but is arrested 
there after the fashion of a smitten ball. So 
that the form (which does not appear nor [803 
shine in the transparent medium) is arrested ; 
and this is why an image is seen on leaded 
glass but not on other. From this pupil the 
visual spirit, which extends continuously from 
it to the front part of the brain (where the 
sensitive power exists as in its fontal principle) 
instantaneously, without any interval of time, 
makes a representation of it ; and thus we see. 
Wherefore, in order that its vision may be true, 
that is to say such as the visible thing is in 
itself, C903 the medium through which the 
form comes to the eye must be colourless, and 
so must the water of the pupil be ; otherwise 
the visible form would be tainted with the colour 
of the medium and with that of the pupil. And 
therefore they who desire to give some particular 
colour to the things in a mirror, interpose of that 
colour between the glass and the lead, so that 
the glass is embraced by it. It is true that 
fioo3 Plato and other philosophers declared 
that our seeing was not due to the visible coming 
into our eye, but to the visual power going out to 
the visible. And this opinion is refuted as false 
by the Philosopher in that Of Sense and its Object. 
Now that we have thus examined the mode 
of vision it is easy to perceive that although the 
star is always equally clear and shining and 
experiences no mutation [^iio] save that of 
local movement, as is proved in that of Heaven 
and Earth, there may be many causes why it 


seems not clear and not shining, since it may so Appear- 

appear because of the medium which is con- ^nce and 

tinually changing. This medium changes from ''^^"'J 

abundance to paucity of light, as at the presence 

or absence of the sun ; and in his presence the 

medium, which is diaphanous, is so full of light 

that it overcomes the star and so seems to 

be [1203 brighter than it. This medium 

also changes from subtle to gross, and from dry 

to moist, by reason of the vapours of earth 

which are continually rising. Which medium, 

by these changes, changes the image of the star 

which comes through it, its grossness affecting it 

in dimness, and its moisture or dryness affecting 

it in colour. 

And it may also appear so by reason of the visual 
organ, that is the eye, which [1303 by reason of 
weakness or exhaustion may acquire a certain colour 
or a certain feebleness, as it often happens that 
the tunic of the pupil becoming violently blood- 
shot because of some disorder caused by illness, 
almost everything looks red, and therefore the 
star seems coloured thereby. And, when the 
sight is enfeebled, a certain dispersion of the 
spirit takes place in it, so that things no longer 
seem knit together, but sprawling, Q1403 much 
as letters of our writing do on damp paper. 
And this is why many, when they have a mind 
to read, remove the writing to a distance from 
their eyes that the image may enter the more 
lightly and subtly ; and thereby the letter 
remains more distinct in their sight. And so 
the star too may seem blurred. And I ex- 
perienced this in that same year wherein this 
ode was born; for C^S^H greatly taxing my 


Restora- sight in eagerness of reading, I so weakened the 
tion of visual spirits that all the stars appeared to me 
vision J.Q jjg shadowed by a kind of halo. And by 
long repose in dark and cool places, and cooling 
the body of the eye in clear water, I knit 
together again the disintegrated power, so as to 
return to my former good condition of sight. 
And thus we see that there are many causes 
(for the reasons noted) why the star may appear 
other than it really is. 

11 ft". The 'little sister' here referred to is obviously 
the ballad, Voi che safete ragionar d' amove, of which a 
translation is here subjoined : 

Ye who have knowledge to discourse of love, hear- 

ken to my piteous ballad, which tells of a disdainful 

lady, who by her worth hath reft away my 

heart. [4] 

So doth she scorn whoever looketh on her, she 

maketh him bow down his eyes in terror ; for 

round her own there ever whirleth a picture of 

all cruelty : but within they bear the sweet 

image, which makes a gentle soul cry out for 

mercy ; of such virtuous power that whenso she is 

seen, she draweth sighs from out of the heart of 

folk. [12] 

It seems as though she said : ' Nought humble will I 
be toward anyone who gazeth in my eyes ; for 

I bear within that gentle lord, who hath made me 

feel of his darts.'* And verily I believe that thus 

she guardeth them to look herself upon them when 

it pleaseth her : in fashion as right-minded lady 

doth (when she is gazed on) through her will for 

honour, f [20] 

I have no hope that ever of her pity she should 

deign to gaze a little on another : so cruel a lady 

* She has felt the flame of love herself; and, knowing that 
she is not invincible, stands upon her guard and will not 
surrender at a word. 

t That is to say, 'for honour's sake a right-minded lady, 
when gazed upon, guards her looks.' 


is she in her beauty she who feeleth love within 

her eyes. But let her hide and guard him as 

she will, that I may never see so great salva- 

tion, yet power shall my longings have against 

the scorn that love doth wreak upon me. [28] 

The poem is one of philosophic love. Compare 
Matthew Arnold's Urania : 

I too have suffered ; yet I know 
She is not cold, though she seems so. 
She is not cold, she is not light ; 
But our ignoble souls lack might. 

She smiles and smiles, and will not sigh, 
While we for hopeless passion die ; 
Yet she could love, those eyes declare. 
Were but men nobler than they are. 
.,. Etc. 

*j 45 ff. lukerein sometimes, etc. The Italian is a little 
difficult : nel quale alcuna -volt a la -verita si discorda daW 
apparen'za^ ed altra per di-verso rispetto si pub trattare. If 
it will bear the meaning I have given it, 'the truth may 
differ from the appearance, and may therefore, under one 
aspect or another, justify a representation at variance 
with the appearance,' the sense seems fairly satisfactory. 

61. Moore would read, sensihili comuni=^ common 
sensibles.' See IV. 8 : 49, note. 

69. Form is not here used in its technical philosophical 
sense, but stands simply for 'shape' or 'appearance.' 
The technical word for the idolon, image, or material 
counterpart, of an object of sense, which passes into the 
mind, is inten-x.ione (compare intemzionalmente in the next 
line), which is expressly to be distinguished from the 
forma or ' essence ' of the thing. Compare Purgatorio, 
XVIII. 22, 23, note. 

74. Is completed, that is to say it completes its course 
' in the water,' because it does not extend beyond it, being 
arrested at its limit. 

loi. The visible, i.e., colour, not of course the material 
' thing seen ' itself. 

119 f. e pero pare piu lucent e. So the MSS. Dr. 
Moore inserts a non. The sense would then be : ' And 
therefore it [the star] no longer seems to shine.' This 
is certainly more natural. 



[How the intensity of the author's passion, when he 
wrote the ballad, concealed the truth of his 
lady's disposition from him and made him judge 
after her semblance. Of a certain point to be 
discussed hereafter, (c) The author instructs 
his ode ; and thereby instructs his reader in 
discretion and tact in the matter of conveying 
instruction, reproof, and laudation.] 

Of per- Quitting this digression, which was necessary 
turbing for the apprehension of the truth, I return to the 
passion j^atter in hand, and declare that as sometimes 
' our eyes call,' that is judge, ' the star ' other 
than its real state is, so this little ballad considered 
this lady according to the appearance (discordant 
with the truth) that sprang from the infirmity of 
my mind which was impassioned [^lo^ by ex- 
cessive longing. And this I make clear when I 
say : * For the soul was in such terror, that 
methought dire ' that which I saw in her 
presence; where be it known that the more closely 
the agent is united with the patient, so much the 
stronger is the passion, as may be understood by 
the opinion of the Philosopher in that 0/ 
Generation. Wherefore the nearer the desired 
thing approaches to him who desires it, the 
greater is the desire ; and l2o] the more the 
soul is impassioned the more does it concentrate 
itself upon the appetitive part, and the more does 
it retreat from reason : so that, in such state, a 
person does not judge as a man, but pretty 
nearly as some other animal, according to appear- 
ance only, not according to truth. And this is 
why the semblance, which in truth was august, 


seemed to me ' disdainful and cruel ' ; and it was Eyes not 
in accordance with this judgment of sense that ^° ^® 
this little ballad spoke. And hereby it is given ^^*^*P® 
sufficiently to be understood that this [^303 ode 
considers this lady according to the truth, 
because of its discord with that other. 
And not without reason do I say ; 

Where she perce'tveth me, 

and not ' where I perceive her.' But herein I 
would give to understand the great power that 
her eyes had over me, for even as though I had 
been diaphanous, their ray passed through me on 
every side. And here natural and supernatural 
reasons might be [^403 assigned, but let it suffice 
here to have said so much ; elsewhere I shall 
discourse of it on more fitting occasion. 

Then when I say : c. 

Thus plead thy excuse if thou have needy 

I enjoin upon the ode how to excuse itself (by 
the reasons assigned) , where there is need, to wit 
where any is in difficulty because of this contra- 
diction ; which is no other than to say that if 
any is in difficulty as concerns the contradiction 
between this ode and that little ballad he is to 
consider the reason [^50] which has been told. 
And this figure in rhetoric is worthy of much 
praise, and moreover is necessary ; I mean when 
words are addressed to one person and intended 
for another ; for admonition is ever laudable and 
necessary, yet it is not always suitable in every 
one's mouth. Wherefore when a child is aware 
of a father's vice, and when a servant is conscious 
of a master's vice, and when a friend [jSo] knows 



Of ad- that his friend's shame would be increased or his 
monition honour depressed were he to admonish him, or 

and ot jj^jjQ^g ti^at his friend is not patient but irritable 
under admonition, this figure is most beautiful 
and most profitable, and it may be called dis- 
guising. And it resembles the action of the 
skilful warrior who attacks the fortress on one 
side to withdraw the defence from the other, for 
then the intention of the succour goes not to the 
\jo'] same quarter as the battle. 

And I enjoin upon her also, to ask leave from 
this lady to speak of her. Where it may be 
understood that a man should not presume to 
praise another without rightly considering whether 
such is the pleasure of the person praised ; for 
many a time he who thinks he is praising is in 
truth blaming, either through the fault of himself, 
who speaks the praise, or of him who hears it. 
Whence there is need of [803 much discretion 
herein, which discretion is a kind of asking leave, 
after the fashion wherein I bid this ode ask it. 
And so ends all the literal meaning of this 
treatise ; wherefore the arrangement of the work 
demands that, following up the truth, we pro- 
ceed to the allegorical exposition. 

13-25. On agent AnA patient. See II. 10 : 67 ft', note, 
and on the concentration of the whole soul upon one 
power, or one set of powers, compare Purgatorio, IV. I- 12. 

41, As the portion of the work in which this promise 
was to be redeemed was never written, we are left to our 
own resources in elaborating the idea. Probably Oeie VI. 
14, 15, in the seventh treatise (see IV. 26 : 67), would 
have been the text : or possibly Ode VII. 21-24. 



[Of the allegorical interpretation of the ode. And 
first of philosophy or love of wisdom. Of false 
and true friendship and love. Of the soul and 
body of love. Of the secondary sense in which 
the sciences are called philosophy.] 

According as the order requires, returning again Of de- 
to the beginning, I declare that this lady is that finitions 
lady of the intellect which is called philosophy. 
But inasmuch as praises naturally produce a 
longing to know the person praised, and since 
knowing a thing means understanding what it is, 
considered in itself and in all its causes (as saith 
the Philosopher in the beginning of the £10'] 
Physics), and inasmuch as the name does not 
expound this (although this is what it signifies, 
as the Philosopher says in the fourth of the 
Metaphysics, where it is asserted that the defini- 
tion is that conception which the name signifies) 
it is fitting at this point, before proceeding further 
in her praises, to show and to declare what it is 
that is called philosophy, that is to say, what this 
name signifies. And afterwards, when she her- 
self has been explained, the present allegory will 
be more effectively treated. And first [20] I 
will tell who first gave this name, and then I 
will proceed to its meaning. 

I say then, that of old, in Italy, almost at the 
beginning of the foundation of Rome, which (as 
Paulus Orosius writes) was six hundred and 
fifty years, or a little more or less, before the 
Saviour came, about in the time of Numa 
Pompilius, second King of the Romans, there 
lived a most noble philosopher who was called > 


Of philo [30] Pythagoras. And that this was the time 
sophy when he lived Titus Livius seems incidentally 
to indicate in the first part of his volume. And 
before him the followers after knowledge were 
not called philosophers but sages, as were those 
seven most ancient sages whose fame folk 
still preserve, the first of whom was Solon, 
the second Chilo, the third Periander, the fourth 
Thales, the [40] fifth Cleobulus, the sixth 
Bias, the seventh Pittacus. This Pythagoras, 
when asked whether he regarded himself as a 
sage, refused to appropriate the word to him- 
self, and said that he was not a wise man, 
but a lover of wisdom. And hence it after- 
wards came about that everyone who was de- 
voted to wisdom was called a ' lover of wisdom,' 
that is a philosopher, for in Greek philos is as 
much as amator in Latin, and hence we say 
philos for lover and sophia [[50]] for luisdom ; 
wherefore philos and sophia are as much as to say 
' lover of wisdom ' ; wherefore it may be noted 
that it is a name not of arrogance but of 
humility. Hence is derived the word for the 
proper act of such an one, philosophy ; as from 

* friend ' is derived a word for the proper act of 
such, friendship. Whence may be seen, by con- 
sidering the significance of the first and the 
second word, that ' philosophy ' is no other than 

* friendship to wisdom ' [^603 or to knowledge ; 
whence in a certain sense everyone may be called 
a philosopher, in virtue of the natural love which 
begets in everyone the longing to know. But 
since the essential passions are common to all 
we do not speak of them under a word which 
singles out some particular participant in the 


essential thing. Thus we do not call John Of true 
Martin's friend when we simply mean to in- friendship 
dicate the natural friendship whereby we are all 
friends [70] to all, but the friendship which 
has been generated over and above that which is 
natural, and which is proper and distinct in 
individual persons. Thus no man is called a 
philosopher in virtue of the common love. 

Aristotle proposes, in the eighth of the Ethics, 
to call him a friend whose friendship is not 
hidden from the person loved, and to whom the 
person loved is also friendly, so that the good- 
will is on both sides ; and this must be in virtue 
of profit [803, or of delight, or of worthiness. 
And thus, in order that a man may be called a 
philosopher, there must be the love of wisdom 
which creates goodwill on the one side, and 
there must be the zeal and eagerness which 
begets goodwill on the other side also, so that 
intimacy and the manifestation of goodwill spring 
up between them. Wherefore a man cannot be 
called a philosopher without both love and zeal, 
for both the one and the other must be present ; 
and inasmuch as \j)o'] friendship contracted for 
delight or for profit is not real but only in- 
cidental friendship, as the Ethics shows, so 
philosophy for delight or for profit is not real 
but only incidental philosophy. Wherefore we 
are not to call any man a real philosopher who 
is friendly with wisdom in some direction be- 
cause of some certain delight ; as are many who 
delight in composing odes, giving their zeal 
thereto, and who delight in the zealous study of 
[]ioo] rhetoric and music, but who flee and 
desert the other sciences, all of which are , 


The true members of wisdom. We are not to call him a 
philo- real philosopher who is a friend of wisdom for 
sopher profit, as are lawyers, physicians, and almost all 
the members of the religious orders, who do not 
study in order to know, but in order to get 
money or office ; and if anyone would give 
them that which it is their purpose to acquire 
they would linger over their study no longer. 
And as C^io] amongst the different kinds of 
friendship that which is for the sake of profit is 
least to be called friendship, so these, such as I 
speak of, have less share in the name of philo- 
sopher than any other folk. Wherefore, just as 
friendship contracted in virtue of worthiness is 
real and perfect and abiding, so is that philo- 
sophy real and perfect which is generated by 
worthiness alone, with no other respect, and by 
the excellence of the soul that feels this friend- 
ship, in virtue of right appetite and right reason. 
[^120]] So that here we may say that, just as 
there is real friendship between men when each 
one loves the other in entirety, so the real 
philosopher loves every part of wisdom, and 
wisdom every part of the philosopher, so as to 
draw him entirely to herself and allow him to 
dissipate no thought of his upon other things. 
Wherefore wisdom herself says in the Proverbs 
of Solomon : ' I love those that love me.' And 
as real C^3°II friendship, abstracted from the 
mind and considered only in itself, has as its 
subject the knowledge of the well-doing and 
has for form the attraction thereto, so philo- 
sophy considered in itself, apart from the soul, 
has as its subject understanding, and as its form 
an almost divine love of the thing understood. 


And as virtue is the efficient cause of real Of con- 
friendship, so truth is the efficient cause of^c'^P'a* 
philosophy. And as the goal Q1403 of true " 
friendship is the excellent delight which pro- 
ceeds from intercourse according to what is 
proper to humanity, that is according to reason 
(as Aristotle seems to think in the ninth of the 
Ethics) y so the goal of philosophy is that most 
excellent delight which suffers no interruption 
nor defect, to wit the true blessedness which is 
gained by the contemplation of the truth. And 
thus it may be perceived who this my [[1503 
lady now is, in all her causes and in her con- 
stituent principle, and why she is called philo- 
sophy, and who is the true philosopher and who 
the philosopher incidentally. 

But since sometimes, in a certain fervour of 
mind, the source or goal of action and passion 
is called by the name of the action or passion 
itself — as Virgil does in the second of the jEneid, 
when he calls ^neas, ' O light' (^160] (which 
was an act), * O hope of the Trojans ' (which 
is a passion), though he was neither a light 
nor a hope, but was the source whence came to 
them the light of counsel, and was the object in 
whom reposed all the hope of their deliverance ; 
and as Statius says in the fifth of the Thebais 
when Hypsipyle says to Archemoros : * O thou 
comfort of my estate, and my lost fatherland, O 
glory of my service ' ; and as we constantly 
[170] say, pointing to a friend, < see my friend- 
ship,' and as a father says to his child ' my love ' 
— by long wont, the sciences upon which philo- 
sophy plants her sight most fervently are called 
by her name, such as natural science, moral 


Of the science, and metaphysic science ; which last is 
sciences called philosophy, because on her most neces- 
sarily and most fervently does she plant her 
vision. Whence may be seen how C^^oD the 
sciences are called philosophy in a secondary 

Now that we have perceived how the primary 
is the real philosophy in her essence (which is 
the lady of whom I am speaking), and how her 
noble name is communicated by wont and use to 
the sciences, I shall proceed with her praises. 

' ,24-27. Orosiusy a contemporary and friend of Augus- 
tine's, flourished at the beginning of the fifth century. 
His Uni-versal History, written to disarm the Pagan con- 
tention that Christianity had ruined the Roman empire, 
was the general text-book of history in the middle ages. 
Toynbee thinks that Dante derived this date of about 
650 B.C. for the founding of Rome (generally put at 
753 B.C.) from a passage in which Orosius says that 
nearly 700 years passed between Tullus Hostilius and 

43. Wtse man. Italian sayiente, the word I have trans- 
lated ' sage ' elsewhere in this passage. 

54. Act, the Italian atto, in its strictly philosophical 
sense, corresponding to the Latin actus, is contrasted 
with potenzia. If I can thinU., I have the 'potentiality' 
of thought. If I am thinking, I have the * act ' of 
thought, or thought 'in act.' Thus the word is allied to 
form and entelechy. See II. 14 ; 26, note. The word, as 
a technical term of philosophy, is much used by Dante 
in the Comedy, but little in the Convi-vio. Here it means 
pretty much 'activity* or 'manifestation.' 

66. Where we use a word to distinguish a special 
relation, we must be supposed not to be using it in the 
sense in which it designates a universal relation. 

67. ' John ' aijd ' Martin ' as in I. 8 : 94 fF. 

91. Friends/tip may enter incidentally into a relation 
which we contracted for our own advantage or pleasure; 
but as long as its continuance depends upon these things 
the relation is not essentially one of friendship. 


102 ff. The same sentiment is expressed in I. 9 : 22 fF. 
and elsewhere. 

118. The soul that feels this friendship. So I understand 
the Italian arnica. The absolute worthiness of the soul 
loved wakes affection in the loving soul, in virtue of the 
Tightness of its (the latter' s) appetite and reason. That 
is to say, love rises from the worthiness of the beloved 
and the excellence of the lover. 

130-136. Abstracted from the mind. Friendship and 
philosophy are really ' accidents,' that is to say, experi- 
ences of intelligent beings (compare I. 5 : 2, 3, note), not 
things that exist on their own account (compare Vita 
Nucma, § 25) ; but if we abstract them from the mind, 
in which they really exist, personify them, and treat them 
as self-existent 'substances,' then we may consider, in the 
case of friendship, that the knowledge of our friend's 
goodness is the underlying subject or material, upon which 
our admiration is stamped as xXzform ; and, in the case of 
philosophy, that the underlying subject is our knowledge, 
and the form stamped on it our love of the thing known. 
Compare II. 14 : 140, note. 

150. Aristotle (see lines 10 ff. of this chapter) defines 
scientific knowledge as the knowledge of a thing in its 
essence or principle and in its causes. We have now 
seen what is the efficient cause of philosophy, viz., the 
love that produces it, and what is its final cause, viz., the 
'excellent delight' which it secures (line 140, to be dis- 
tinguished from the inferior delight of line 90), and as 
we also know its material (science), and its form (love of 
that science), we have an adequate scientific knowledge 
of it. Compare IV. 20 : 94-106, note. 

160. Act, see note on line 54, above, 

170. I have given the passage as it stands, although 
our language has not the usage to which it refers. Our 
'acquaintance,' however, furnishes a parallel. 

1 8 1 ff. Ho'w the primary, etc. I.e., how love of wisdom 
is philosophy in the primary and real sense of the word, 
and the object of that love is philosophy in a Secondary 
and derived sense. 



[(/.) Of the poet's study to win his way to intimacy 
with philosophy, which study is typified by love. 
(//.) Of God, all-enlightening and all-seeing, 
typified by the sun ; (a.^ and in what sort God 
looketh upon and seeth philosophy.] 

Study In the first chapter of this treatise the cause 
that woos which moved me to compose this ode has been 
so fully explained that there is no occasion to 
discourse further of it, because it may easily be 
■^' reduced to the exposition which has already been 
given. And, therefore, according to the divi- 
sions made, I will run through the literal 
meaning in quest of the other, translating the 
literal sense where necessary, 
[^loj I say : 

Love that discourses to me in my mind. 
By ' love ' I mean the study which I devoted to 
acquiring the love of this lady. Where be it 
known that * study ' may here be considered in 
two ways. There is one kind of study which 
brings a man to the habit of the art or the 
science, and there is another study which works 
in the habit when acquired, and plies it ; and this 
first it is that I here call love, which formed 
\_zo~\ in my mind continuous, new, and most 
lofty ponderings on this lady, who has been in- 
dicated above ; for this is the wont of study 
which is devoted to acquiring a friendship, 
because in the first place it ponders on the great 
significance of this friendship, while longing for 
the same. This is that study and that affection 
which is wont to precede the generating of 


friendship amongst men, when love is already and study 
born on the one side, and he who already loves that 
longs and [^303 strives that it may spring up on ^"J^y^ 
the other side. For, as said above, philo- 
sophy is there when the soul and wisdom have 
become friends, so that each is entirely Ibved by 
the other, as in the fashion stated above. Nor 
is there need of further discourse by way of the 
present exposition concerning this first verse, 
which was discoursed of as proem in the literal 
exposition ; inasmuch as the understanding may 
very easily turn, by means [40^ of its first 
significance, to this its second. 

Wherefore we are to proceed to the second //. 
verse which begins the treatise, in which I say : 

The sun seeth not^ who circleth all the world. 

Here you are to know that just as it is suitable 
to treat of an object of sense by means of a thing 
which is not an object of sense, so it is suitable 
to treat of an object of the intellect by means of 
a thing which is not an object of the intellect. 
And so, since in the literal exposition the dis- 
course opened [[50] with the corporeal sun, ac- 
cessible to sense, we are now to discourse of the 
spiritual sun, accessible to the intellect, that is 
God. No object of sense in all the universe is 
more worthy to be made the symbol of God than 
the sun, which enlightens, with the light of sense, 
itself first, and then all the celestial and elemental 
bodies ; and in like manner God illuminates 
first himself with intellectual light and then the 
celestial and other creatures accessible to the in- 
tellect. The sun quickens all things (^603 with 
his heat, and if he destroys certain things thereby 


The that is not of the intention of the cause, but is an 
spiritual incidental effect ; and in like manner God 
^"" quickens all things in goodness, and if any of 
them be evil, it is not of the divine intention but 
must needs be in some way incidental to the pro- 
gress of the effect intended. For if God made 
both the good and the bad angels he did not 
make them both by intention, but only the good 
ones; then the wickedness of the bad ones 
followed, [^703 beside the intention, yet not so 
beside the intention but that God foreknew their 
wickedness. But so great an affection had he to 
produce spiritual creatures that the foreknow- 
ledge of some who must needs come to an ill 
end should not nor could not hinder God 
from this producing ; for nature would not be to 
praise if, well knowing that the blossoms of a 
tree must perish in some certain part, she were 
not to produce [80]] blossoms thereon, and 
because of the barren were to abstain from pro- 
a. ducing the fertile ones. I say then that God, 
who understandeth all (for his circling is his 
understanding), sees not so noble a thing as he 
sees when he looks upon the place where is this 
philosophy ; for albeit God, looking upon him- 
self, sees all things at once, yet inasmuch as the 
distinction between things exists in him, after the 
fashion wherein the effect exists in the cause, he 
sees them [90] distinct from one another. He 
sees this most noble of all things absolutely, 
then, inasmuch as he sees her most perfectly in 
himself and in his essence. For if we call to 
mind what has been said above, philosophy is a 
loving exercise of wisdom, and this exists 
supremely in God, since in him is the highest 


wisdom and the highest love and the highest The 
actuality, which may not be elsewhere save in daughter 
so far as it proceeds from him. The divine ^ 
[^1003 philosophy then is of the divine essence, 
because in hira nought may be added to his 
essence ; and she is most noble because the 
divine essence is most noble ; and she is in him 
in perfect and true fashion, as though in eternal 
wedlock. In other intelligences she exists in a 
lesser way, as though a mistress, of whom no 
lover has complete enjoyment, but must satisfy 
his longing by gazing on her. Wherefore it 
may be [^iio] said, that God sees not, that is 
to say understands not, anything so noble as her ; 
and I say ' anything ' inasmuch as he sees and dis- 
tinguishes the other things, as said above, since 
he sees himself as the cause of them all. Oh 
most noble and most excellent heart which is 
enamoured of the spouse of the Emperor of 
heaven, and not only spouse, but sister and most 
beloved daughter. 

47. Not an object of intellect. That is to say ' an object 
of sense.' The Italian is coil di cosa tntelligibile per cosa 
non intelligihile trattare si conviene. On which see II. 14 : 
24, note. 

59. Accessible to the intellect. Italian intelligibili, i.e., the 
creatures of which we can form a conception, but of 
which we can have no perception by the senses. 

68. That is to say, the existence of the guilty angels 
was not a part of what moved God to creation. 



[Of wisdom in the angels that fell not. And in 
men, such as are men indeed ; though even in 
them discontinuously, and only when they are 
in the act of philosophising. Yet, even so, such 
men, though many a time they have but the 
habit of wisdom, and that imperfectly, are to 
be called her familiars, because of their love of 
her which doth ever exalt them, and is as it were 
the soul of all virtuous actions ; through which, 
as through its outward manifestations, it appeals 
to such as have not yet known it.] 

Intelli- Now that we have seen it subtly declared at the 

gences, beginning of her praises that primarily con- 

and in sidered she exists in the divine substance, we 

exile are to go on and to consider how I declare that 

secondarily she exists in created intelligences. 

I say then : 

Every supernal intellect gazes upon her, 

where we are to know that I say * supernal,' 
bringing them into relation with God, who has 
been spoken [lo] of above ; and hereby are 
excluded the intelligences that are in exile from 
the supernal fatherland, for they cannot philoso- 
phise because love is utterly quenched in them ; 
and to philosophise, as already said, there is 
need of love. Wherefore we perceive that the 
infernal intelligences are bereft of the aspect of 
this most beauteous one ; and inasmuch as she is 
the blessedness of the intellect, to be deprived 
of her is most bitter and full of all \_iol^ sadness. 
Then when I say : 

ylnd such folk as are here enamoured. 


I descend to explain how she also comes, in a Intelli- 
secondary sense, into the human intelligence ; gences, 
and with this human philosophy I then proceed ^g 
in the treatise, commending her. I say, then, human 
that the folk who are enamoured here, to 
wit in this life, perceive her in their thoughts, 
not always, but when love makes them feel of 
Q303 his peace. Wherein three things are to 
be observed which are touched upon in this 
passage. The first is when it says : 

Such folk as here are enamoured, 

whereby a distinction seems to be made in the 
human race ; and it must of necessity be made, 
for, as is clearly apparent, and as will be ex- 
pressly explained in the next following treatise, 
an immense proportion of mankind lives more 
after sense than after [403 reason. And those 
who live after sense cannot possibly be en- 
amoured of her, for they cannot have any 
apprehensioD of her. The second is where it 
says : 

When love tnaketh them feel, and the rest, 

where it seems that a distinction of time is 
made; and this too [}% necessary, because], 
albeit the sejunct intelligences gaze con- 
tinuously upon this lady, the human intel- 
ligence may not do this, because human [_$o~\ 
nature requires many things besides speculation 
(whereby the intellect and reason are fed) to 
sustain it. Wherefore our wisdom is sometimes 
only in habit and not in act. And this is not 
so with the other intelligences whom the in- 
tellectual nature by itself completes. Wherefore 


The when our soul is not in the act of speculation 

habit it cannot be truly said to be in company with 

exercise Philosophy [^603 except in so far as it has the 

of philo- liabit thereof, and the potentiality of waking it ; 

sophy and therefore she is sometimes with the folk 

who are enamoured here, and sometimes is 

not with them. The third is when it tells 

the hour when those folk are with her, that is 


Love maketh them feel of his teace, 

which signifies no other than when man is in 
actual [70] speculation ; for study does not 
make, aught of the peace of this lady felt, save 
in the act of speculation. And thus we see 
how this lady is primarily of God, and second- 
arily of the other sejunct intelligences by way 
of continuous contemplation, and afterwards of 
the human intelligence by way of discontinuous 

But the man who has her as his lady is always 
to be called a philosopher, although he is not 
always engaged in the distinguishing act of 
philosophy, because folk are [_^o~\ chiefly to be 
named according to habit. Wherefore we call 
a man virtuous even when he is not doing a 
deed of virtue, because he has the virtuous habit, 
and we call a man eloquent even when he is not 
speaking, because of the habit of eloquence, 
that is to say, of speaking well. And con- 
cerning this philosophy, in so far as she is 
partaken by the human intelligence, the follow- 
ing commendations are to show how great a 
part of her goodness is conceded \j)0~\ to human 
nature. So I say next : 


Her being so pleases hhn nvho gave it hery Perfect in 

from whom she flows as from her primal fectness 
source, which doth ever attract the capacity of 
our nature and make it beautiful and virtuous. 
Whence, although certain attain to the habit of 
her, yet none so attain that it can be strictly 
called the habit, because the first study, namely 
that whereby the habit is [^looj begotten, can 
never perfectly acquire her. And herein is 
perceived her distinctive praise that whether 
perfect or imperfect she never forfeits the name 
of perfection. And because she is thus out of 
measure, it says that the soul of philosophy 

Maketh it show forth in that which she doth 

that is to say that God ever sets of his light in 
her ; where we must call to mind how it was 
said above that love is the form of philosophy, 
and therefore [no] here it is called her soul; 
which love is manifested in the exercise of 
wisdom, which exercise brings with it wondrous 
beauties, to wit content in every temporal state, 
and scorn of all those things which others make 
their lords. Whereby it happens that the 
wretched others who behold this, pondering upon 
their defect, when the longing for perfection 
comes upon them, fall into labour of sighs ; and 
this is what is meant [^i2oJ by 

The eyes of those in whom she shines send 

messages thereof to the heart, Jilled with long- 
ings, ivhich gather air and turn to sighs. 

37. See IV. 11; : 

117 fF. 

38. See IV. 15 : 

: 97 fF. 


54. For habii and act, see I. I : 15, and III. n : 54, 

55-57. On the angelic intellect, see II. 5 : 76, jj,note. 

65 ft'. Compare III. 6 : 80-85, text and note. 

95. TVhence, that is to say : Because she comes from 
God, and it is God that draws us to himself in her, we 
can never, here on earth, perfectly attain to the ' habit ' 
of wisdom, much less persevere without break in the 
exercise of that habit. 


[{l?) How love is the soul of philosophy ; and how the 
divine love descends directly upon the angelic and 
the human mind, and indirectly upon all else ; 
and of the distinction between fontal, radiated 
and reflected light. How that which the eternal 
loves is eternal, and how the love of wisdom is 
conformed to this same fashion of loving eternal 
things and despising the things that are temporal. 
How the soul may be tempered by contemplation 
of her, and how by unriddling many wonders even 
to our minds she may lead us to believe that all 
things have their reason in the mind of God. ] 

Love, the As in the literal exposition, after the general 
soul of praises, we descend to the special, first on the 
sonhv ^^'^^ °^ ^^^ so\x\, then on the side of the body, 
L so now the text purposes, after the general com- 
' mendations, to descend to the special ones. 
Wherefore, as was said above, philosophy here 
on earth has for her subject-matter wisdom, and 
for her form love, and for the combination of the 
one [_io~\ and the other the exercise of specula- 
tion. Wherefore in this verse, which begins as 

On her descendeth the divine po'wer^ 


I purpose to commend love, which is a part of Light, 

philosophy. Where be it known that for virtue fontaland 

to descend from one nature into another is * ^ ' 

nought else than to reduce the latter to her own 

likeness ; just as we manifestly see that in natural 

agents, when their virtue descends upon things 

that receive it, they draw [20J them to be so 

far like themselves as it is possible for them to 

come to be. Whence we see that the sun, when 

his ray descends down here, reduces things to the 

similitude of light in so far as by their dispositions 

they have the capacity for receiving light from 

his power. Thus I say that God reduces this 

love to his own similitude, in the degree wherein 

it is possible for it to liken itself to him. 

And the quality of this creating anew is set 
forth [30] in saying : 

^s it doth upon an angel who heholdeth it, 

where we are further to know that the prime 
agent — to wit God — stamps his power upon 
some things after the manner of a direct ray, and 
upon others after the manner of a reflected 
splendour ; for upon the intelligences the divine 
light rays without medium, upon other things it 
is reflected by those intelligences which are first 
enlightened. But since we have here made men- 
tion of /ighl and of splendour^ for the sake of com- 
plete understanding, [40^ I will explain the 
difFerence between these words, according to the 
opinion of Avicenna. I say that it is the custom 
of the philosophers to call the luminous principle 
/ig^t, in so far as it exists in the source from 
which it springs, and to call it a ray in so far as 
it exists in the medium (between its source and 


Love of the first body whereby it is arrested), and to call 
wisdom it splendour in so far as it is thrown back upon 
^^^^ some other part which it illuminates. I say, 
then, that the divine virtue, draws this \j)0~\ 
love to its own likeness without any inter- 
mediary. And this may be manifested chiefly 
herein, that as the divine love is eternal under 
every aspect, so, of necessity, it behoves its 
object to be eternal, so that the things which it 
loves must needs be eternal. And it is after 
this same fashion that this love makes us love, 
because wisdom, whereupon this love strikes, is 
eternal. Wherefore it is written of her, ' From 
the beginning, before the ages, was I created, 
and in the \^o~\ ages which are to come I shall 
not fail.' And in the Proverbs of Solomon 
wisdom herself says, ' I was ordained from ever- 
lasting.' And in the beginning of the Gospel of 
John her eternity may be clearly noted ; and 
hence it arises that where this love grows all 
other loves are darkened and almost quenched, 
inasmuch as its eternal object conquers and over- 
comes all other objects out of all proportion. And 
this \_']0~\ the most excellent philosophers openly 
revealed in their actions, whereby we know that 
they gave no heed to any other thing save 
wisdom. Thus Democritus, taking no heed of 
his own person, cut neither beard nor hair nor 
nails. Plato, caring not for temporal goods, took 
no heed to his royal dignity, for he was the son 
of a king. Aristotle, caring for no [So^ other 
friend, entered into contention with his best friend 
save her — to wit with the above-named Plato. 
And why do we speak of these, since we find 
others who despised their very lives for these 


thoughts, such as Zeno, Socrates, Seneca, and Celestial 
many others. And so it is manifest that the thoughts 
divine virtue, in angelic fashion, descends upon 
men in this love ; and to furnish experience of 
this, the text in sequence [_go] cries out : 

j^nd whatsoever gentle lady not believeth 
this, let her go with her and mark ivell, 

and the rest. 

By * gentle lady * is understood a soul noble 
in intellect and free in the exercise of its 
own proper power, which is reason. Where- 
fore other souls cannot be called ladies, but 
handmaids, because they exist not for their 
own sake but for that of another, and the philo- 
sopher says, in the second of the Metaphysics, 
that that thing is free which is there for its own 
sake and not for that of [^.looj another'.' 
It says : 

Let her go with her and mark ivell her gestures, 

that is to say, Let her go in company with this 
love, and look upon that which she shall find 
within him ; of whicii it treats in some part, 

Where she speaketh there comet h down, 

that is to say, where philosophy is in act a 
* celestial thought ' comes down, which argues 
that she is a more than human activity. It 
says * from heaven,' to give to understand that 
not [no] only she, but the thoughts which are 
her friends, are removed from base and earthly 

Then, in sequence, it says how she confirms 


Philo- and kindles love, wheresoever she displays her- 

sophy and self, with the ' sweetness of her gestures,' to wit 

all her comely and tender semblance, free from 

all excess. And, in sequence, the more to 

persuade folk to be of her company, it says : 

Gentle is that in [^I20]] lady ivhich in her is 
fpundf and beauteous is so much only as is 

like to her. jg 

further, it adds : '\ 

'-' '■ y^nd affirm we may that to look on her givei 
help), ' '-' 

where be it known that the power to look upon 
this lady was granted to us in such ample measure, 
not only in order that we might see the counten- 
ance which she reveals to us, but that we may 
long to acquire the things which she keeps con- 
cealed. Whence even as by her means much is 
perceived in its reason and in its sequence which 
without [130] her appears a marvel, so by her 
means it becomes credible that every miracle may 
have its reason for a loftier intellect, and conse- 
quently may take place. Whence our excellent 
faith hath its origin, from which cometh the 
hope of that for which we long and which we 
foresee, and from this is born the activity of 
charity ; by which three virtues we rise to 
philosophise in that celestial Athens where the 
Stoics and Peripatetics and Epicureans, by the 
art of the I3140]] eternal truth, harmoniously 
unite in one will. 

9, 10. When the mind is engaged, not in acquiring 
wisdom but in the loving exercise of the wisdom or 
knowledge acquired, you have the true speculation or con- 


templation, the enjoying as distinct from the winning 
of my lady Philosophy. 

42. The received text is e di chiamare il Cielo lume, 
etc., but cielo can hardly be right, for the subject under 
discussion is light in general, and in II. 7 : 88-100 
Dante expressly precludes the idea that the heaven, as 
such, is a source of light. I think it is probable that 
we should read luce, though it is difficult to say how the 
false reading can have arisen out of it. Thomas Aquinas, 
in his commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences, Book II., 
Distinction 1 3, Article 3, enters into the subject of light at 
considerable length, frequently citing Avicenna. He dis- 
tinguishes between lux, lumen, radius and splendor. Lux 
is the light at its source ; lumen is the general luminosity 
of the diaphanous medium through which light travels; 
radius is the direct line of the passage of light from its 
source to the object it strikes, and splendor is the reflected 
ray. In his commentary on the DeAnima, Book II., Lec- 
ture XIV., he returns to the subject more briefly, and 
says ; — 

' Ipsa igitur participatio -vel effectus lucis in diaphano, 
vacatur lumen. Et si Jit secundum rectam lineam ad corpus 
lucidum, vacatur radius. Si autem causetur ex re-uerhera- 
tiane radii ad corpus lucidum, -vacatur splendor.^ It will be 
noted that in our passage, according to the received text, 
Dante uses lume in the sense which Aquinas (presumably 
in agreement with Avicenna) gives to luce, whereas in 
the passage already referred to in the second treatise, he 
follows Aquinas in calling light at its source luce, but 
makes lume conform to his definition oi radius. It seems 
as though Dante had not clearly grasped the doctrine of 
lumen according to Aquinas (and Avicenna) and so allows 
the word now to invade the territory of luce, and now that 
of raggio. On the whole idea compare Paradiso, XXIX. 
13-18 ; XXX. 97, notes. 

49. Without an intermediary. That is to say, the divine 
power descends direct upon her as it does upon an angel. 
It is not merely reflected. I do not think mezzo means 
' medium ' here. 

55-57. I understand the passage to mean that the 
divine love makes its object eternal and therefore loves 
eternal things, and since the love which is breathed into 
us from on high makes us love wisdom, who is eternal, it 


makes our love conform to the divine love in loving 
eternal things. But the received text seems a little 
strained, both in syntax and in point of logical cohesion. 

76. Plato was supposed to be descended from Codrus, 
the last king of Athens. Apparently some mediaeval 
legend, founded on this tradition, represented him as the 
heir to a throne. 

79. The reference is to the well-known passage (Ethics, 
I. 6: i) in which Aristotle expresses the pain it gives 
him to dissent from Plato, though without mentioning 
him by name. 


[(^) The body of philosophy is wisdom or knowledge, 

in the demonstrations and persuasions of which, 

(her eyes and her smile), joys as of heaven 

' ■ are revealed and the perfection of human nature 

*"'^ realised. Of the insufficiency of language to 

"^ speak, save by negation, of these things ; 

" and how the desire for knowledge, as well on 

earth as in heaven, is measured by the innate 

possibility of the same. Of the secondary delight 

of virtuous activity, and of its effect upon such as 

witness its manifestations. Of wisdom as the 

source of all created things, and of the misery of 

such as reject her. And (///.) of the travail 

that we must endure when we seek wisdom and 

have not yet learned her demonstrations nor felt 

her persuasions.] 

Wisdom In the preceding chapter this glorious lady is 
the body commended according to one of her component 
sonh " P^'"'-^' ^^ "^^^ love. Now, in this chapter, wherein 
- I purpose to expound that verse which begins : 

Things are revealed in her aspect, 

it behoves to treat in commendation of her other 


part, to wit, wisdom. Tlie text says, then, that Demon- 

in her countenance [loj appear things strations 

and per- 
•wh'tch shotv us of the joys of Paradise, suasions 

and it specifies the place of this appearance, to 
wit, in her eyes and in her smile. And here it 
is right to know that the eyes of wisdom are her 
demonstrations, whereby the truth is seen most 
certainly, and her smile is her persuasions, 
whereby the inner light of wisdom is revealed 
behind a certain veil ; and in these two is felt 
that loftiest joy of blessedness [[20J which is 
the supreme good in Paradise. This pleasure 
may not be in ought else here below save in 
looking upon these eyes and this smile.' ' And 
the reason is this, that because everything by 
nature desires its own perfection, it may not 
without it be satisfied, which is being blessed ; 
for however much it should have other things, 
without this it would still be left in a state of 
longing, in which it may not be with [30] 
blessedness ; inasmuch as blessedness is a 
perfect thing, and longing is a defective thing, 
for no one longs for what he has, but for what he 
has not, which is a manifest deficiency. And 
in this look alone is acquired human perfection, 
that is the perfection of reason, whereon, as on 
its chiefest factor, all of our essence depends ; 
and all our other activities, feeling, nutrition, 
and all the rest [40] exist for it alone, and it 
exists for itself and not for others. Therefore, 
if this be perfect so is that, to such a point that 
man, as man, sees his every longing at its goal, 
and so is blessed. And therefore it says in the 
book of Wisdoniy 'unhappy is he who setteth at 


Things naught wisdom and teaching,' which is the 

known privation of being happy. It follows that by 

'^ seen ^^^ habit of wisdom both being happy and 

being satisfied are attained, according to the 

[^503 teaching of the Philosopher. Wherefore 

we perceive that in her aspect there appear * of 

the things of Paradise,' and so we read in the 

book of Wisdom already cited, in speaking of 

her, * she is the brightness of the eternal light, 

the spotless mirror of the majesty of God.' 

Then when it says : 

They transcend our intellect ^ 

I plead my excuse, saying that I can speak but 
little of these things, because of their transcend- 
ency. Where be it known that in [60] a 
certain sense these things dazzle our intellect, 
inasmuch as they affirm certain things to be 
which our intellect may not look upon, to wit 
God, and eternity, and first matter ; which are 
seen with the utmost certainty, and believed to 
be with absolute faith, and yet we can only 
understand what they are by process of negation. 
In this way we may approach to the knowledge 
of them, but no otherwise. But here certain 
\j]0~\ may encounter a great difficulty as to how 
wisdom can make a man blessed when she 
cannot perfectly reveal certain things to him ; 
inasmuch as man's natural longing is to know, 
and without fulfilling his longing he may not be 
blessed. Hereto the clear answer may be given 
that the natural longing in every case is measured 
by the possibilities of the thing longed for ; 
otherwise it would [So^ contradict itself, 
which is impossible ;, and nature would have 


created it in vain, whicii is also impossible. It The 
would contradict itself, for in longing for its measure 
perfection it would long for its imperfection, in- 0"0"S'"g 
asmuch as it would long to be ever longing, 
and never to fulfil its longing. And this is the 
error into which the accursed miser falls, per- 
ceiving not that he desires himself ever to be 
desiring, as he pursues [90^ the sum which it 
is impossible to reach. Also nature would have 
created it in vain, because it would not have 
been ordained to any end. And therefore human 
longing is measured in this life by that degree 
of knowledge which it is here possible to 
possess ; and that point is never transgressed 
except by misapprehension, which is beside the 
intention of nature. And in like manner is it 
measured in the angelic nature, and limited in 
quantity to that knowledge which each one's 
[1003 nature can apprehend. And this is why 
the saints envy not one another, because each 
one attains the goal of his longing, which longing 
is commensurate with the nature of his excel- 
lence. Whence, since it is impossible to our 
nature to know, concerning God, and to declare, 
concerning certain things, what they are, we 
have no natural longing to know this, and thus 
the difficulty is £110]] removed. 
Then when I say :, 

Her beauty rains donvn Jlamelets ofjire, 

I descend to another pleasure of Paradise, to wit 
the felicity (secondary to this primal felicity), 
which proceeds from her beauty. Where be it 
known that morality is the beauty of philosophy, 
for just as the beauty of the body results from 


Beauty of the members, in proportion as tliey are duly 
soul ordered, so the beauty of wisdom, [120] which, 
as said above, is the body of philosophy, results 
from the order of the moral virtues, which enable 
her to give pleasure that may be perceived by 
the senses. And therefore I say that her beauty, 
to wit, morality, 

rains donun Jlamelets of fire,, 

that is to say right appetite, which is begotten 
by the pleasure of moral teaching;' which 
appetite actually removes us from even those 
vices which are natural to us, to say nothing of 
the others. And hence springs that felicity 
which Aristotle defines in the (^130] first of 
the Ethics, saying that it is ' activity in accordance 
with virtue, in a perfect life.' 
And when it says : 

Wherefore, whatsoever lady heareth her beauty, 

it proceeds with her praise. I cry out to folk 
to follow her, telling them what are her bene- 
factions ; namely, that by following her everyone 
becomes good. Wherefore it says ' whatsoever 
lady ' (that is, ' whatsoever soul ') perceives that 
her beauty is blamed, because it seems not such 
as it should seem, let her look upon this example. 
[1403 Where be it known that the beauty of 
a soul is its ways, especially the virtues, which 
are sometimes made less beautiful and less 
pleasing by vanity or by pride, as we shall be 
able to see in the last treatise. And therefore 
I say that to escape this we are to look upon 
her ; to wit under that aspect wherein she is an 
example of humility, that is in the part of her 


which is called moral philosophy. And I add In the 
that by gazing upon her, I mean [^xjo] wisdom, begin- 
in that part, every vicious man will become "*"? ^** 
upright and good. And therefore I say : 

// is she who humlleth each perverse one, 

that is, gently bends back whosoever hath been 
warped from the due order. 

Finally, in supreme praise of wisdom I say 
that she is mother of all origins whatever, saying 
that with her God began the universe, and 
specifically the movement of the heaven which 
generates [160^ all things, and from which 
every movement takes its beginning and its 
starting, saying, — 

Of her ivas he thinking ivho set the universe 
in motion, 

that is to say, that she existed in the divine 
thought, which is intellect itself, when he made 
the universe ; whence it follows that she made it; 
wherefore, in the passage in Proverbs, Solomon 
says, in the person of wisdom: *When God 
prepared the heavens I was there, when he 
walled the abysses with a fixed [[lyoj law 
and with a fixed circuit, when he established 
the heaven above and suspended the fountains of 
water, when he fixed the limit for the sea and 
set a decree upon the waters that they might 
not pass their boundaries, when he laid down the 
foundations of the earth, I too was with him, 
ordering all things, and took my delight daily.' 

Oh worse than dead, who flee from her 
friendship! Open your eyes and fi8o] see 
that, before ye were, she loved you, preparing 


Wisdom and ordering your progress ; and, after ye were 
seeketh made, to direct you aright she came to you in 

children y°"^ ^^'^ likeness. And if ye may not all 
come to look upon her herself, do honour to her 
in her friends, and follow their commandments, 
as who proclaim to you the will of this eternal 
empress. Close not your ears to Solomon who 
[^190]] bids you thereto when he says that 'the 
way of the righteous is as a shining light that 
goes on and increases until the day of blessed- 
ness,' following after them, gazing upon their 
doings, which should be a light to you on the 
path of this most brief life. And here may be 
ended the real meaning of this present ode. 
///• But the final verse, which appears as a tornata, 
may be very easily brought down [200J to this 
exposition by means of the literal one, save in 
so far as it says that, in that other poem, I call 
this lady * cruel and disdainful.' Where be it 
known that at the beginning this philosophy 
appeared * cruel ' to me, on the side of her 
body, that is wisdom ; for she smiled not upon 
me, inasmuch as I did not apprehend her per- 
suasions ; and ' scornful ' because she turned not 
her eyes to me, that is to say, I could not 
perceive her demonstrations. And the [210] 
fault of all this was on my side ; whereby, and 
by what has been said in the literal meaning, 
the allegory ot the tornata is manifest ; so that 
it is time, in order to go further on, to make an 
end of this treatise. 

14-18. Compare II. 16 ; 28. 

42. T/iis . . . that. If our reason is perfect, then 
our whole essenre is perfect. I insert a cpnima after 


64. Seen, that is with the mind's eye. I do not follow 
Dr. Moore in inserting a non. 

69-87. This passage, so profoundly characteristic of 
mediaeval thought, declares that the passionate longing to 
ascertain things hidden from us depends upon the belief 
that they are not really inaccessible to us. All that the 
disciplined intellect desires to know on earth is essentially 
knowable on earth, and what it desires to know in 
heaven is knowable in heaven. Compare Paradise, IV. 
124-129, where the attainment of truth in which the in- 
tellect can rest is asserted to be possible, together with III. 
64 fF., where Piccarda renounces the idea that she and her 
companions wish to see more than they do, and XXI. 
79 ff., where Peter Damiani rapturously contemplates, 
without desiring to comprehend, the unfathomable 
mysteries of Deity. Other passages might be added. 
The conception often held in modern times, that the real 
intellectual life is to be found in looking for truth, not in 
finding and enjoying her, is in marked contrast with these 
conceptions ; but many have held (with Comte) that as 
soon as any limits of knowledge are recognised as absolute 
the human mind ceases to struggle against them. This 
would bring us, to some extent, to Dante's position here. 
On the attempt to distinguish in principle between the 
thirst for knowledge and the thirst for wealth compare 
IV. 12 : III — 13 : 52. 

90. Compare Ode XIV. 69 fF. 

127. See III. 8 : 156 ff. 

144. Ode XIV., Doglia mi reca nel core ardire (referred to 
in the note on line 90 above) was to have been the text of 
the last book. Compare I. 8 : 131 and IV. 12 ; 210, «o/«, 
with lines 1 14-122 of the ode. There are several passages 
in the ode that might have given occasion to the promised 
disquisition, for instance the second stanza, or lines 132- 
136; but I think 138-147 is the passage on which it 
would most probably have rested. 



Contra gli erranti. 
[Le dolci rime d'amor, chHo so/ta.] 

The sweet rhymes of love which I was wont to search 

out in my thoughts, needs must I abandon ; not that I 

have no hope of a return to them. 

But because the scornful and haughty gestures which 

in my lady have appeared, have closed the way to 

me of wonted speech [8] 

And because meseems 'tis time for waiting, 
Down will I lay my tender style, which I have held in 

treating of love, and I will tell of the worth where- 

by a man is truly gentle, with harsh and subtle 

rhyme refuting the judgment false and base of 

such as would have it that of gentlehood the principle 

is wealth. And, at the outset, I call upon that 

Lord who dwelleth in my lady's eyes, so that 

of herself she is enamoured. [20] 

A certain one held empire who would have gentle- 
hood, according as he deemed, to be the ancient 
possession of wealth, with gracious manners. 

And some other was there of lighter wisdom, who 
recast such saying, and stripped it of its latter 

phrase, methinks because he had it not. [28] 

After him go all they 

Who make folk gentle because of race which has 

long abode in great wealth : and so inured is 

such false thought amongst us, that folk call that 

man a gentleman, who can aver: 'I was grandson 

or son of such an one of worth,' though he himself be 



nought. But basest doth he seem, to whoso looks on 

truth, who hath been shown the way and thereafter errs 

therefrom ; and he hits nigh to who should be a corpse 

yet walk the earth. [40] 


He who defines : ' Man is a living trunk,' in the first 

place, speaks that which is not true, and further, utters 

the falsehood in defective guise ; but haply sees no 


In like fashion did he who held empire err in de- 

finition, for in the first place he lays down the false, 

and on the other hand proceeds defectively ; [48] 

For riches can not (as is held) 

Either give gentlehood or take away, since in 

their nature they are base. Further, who paints a 

figure, unless himself can be it, can not set it 

down : nor is an upright tower made to lean 

by a river that flows far away. That they be base 

and imperfect is apparent, for how much soever 

gathered, they can give no quiet, but multiply 

care ; wherefore the mind that is upright and 

true is not dismayed by their dispersion. [60] 


Nor will they have it that a base man can become 
gentle, nor that from a base father can descend a 

family that ever can be held as gentle : this is avowed 

by them. 

Wherefore their argument appears to halt, inasmuch 

as it lays down that time is requisite to gentle- 

hood, defining it thereby. [68] 

Further it followeth from what I have above set down, 

That we be all gentle or else simple, or that man had 

not an origin : but this I grant not, neither do 

they, if they be Christians. 

Wherefore to sound intellects 'tis manifest that 

what they say is vain, and thus do I refute the same 

as false, and therefrom dissociate me. And now 

I would declare how I regard it, what is gentlehood 

and whence it comes ; and I will tell the tokens that a 

gentleman retains. [80] 




I affirm that every virtue in principle cometh 

from one root, I mean virtue that maketh man 

blessed in his doing. 

This is (according as the Ethics say), ' a selective 

habit, which abideth solely in the mean'; such 

are the words set down. [88] 

I affirm that nobility in its constituent essence 

Ever implies the goodness of its seat as baseness 

ever implies ill ; and virtue in like fashion always 

carries the import of good ; wherefore in one same im- 

plication the two agree, being to one effect. There- 

fore the one needs must derive from the other or both 

from the same third. But if one signifies all that the other 

signifies, and more as well, the derivation will rather be 

from it. And let this which I have now declared be 

presupposed. [loo] 


Gentlehood is wherever there is virtue, but not virtue 

where she is ; even as the heaven is wherever is the 

star, but not conversely. 

And we in women and in youthful age perceive this 

saving thing, in so far as they are deemed alive to 

shame, which is diverse from virtue. [io8] 

Therefore shall be evolved (like perse from black) ' 

Each several virtue out of her, or their generic kind, as 

I have laid it down above. Wherefore let no one vaunt 

himself and say : ' I belong to her by race ' ; for 

they are well-nigh gods who have such grace, apart 

from all the guilty ; for God alone presents it to the 

soul which he sees within its person take perfect 

stand ; even as to some the seed of blessedness draws 

nigh, despatched by God into the well-placed soul. 



The soul whom this excellence adorns, holds it not 

concealed ; for, from the first when she weds the 

body, she shews it forth till death. 


Obedient, sweet and alive to shame, is she 

in the first age; and adorns her person with 

beauty with well according parts. [128] 

In manhood she is temperate and brave, 

Full of love and courteous praises, and delights only 

in deeds of loyalty. And in old age is prudent 

and just and hath a name for openhandedness, re- 

joicing in herself to hear and to discourse of others' ex- 

cellence. Then in the fourth term of life to God 

is re-espoused, contemplating the end that she awaits, 

and blesses the past seasons. See now how many be 
they deceived ! [140] 


Against the erring ones take thou thy way, my 
ode, and when thou shalt be in the region 

where our lady is, keep not thy business hid from 

her : thou may'st securely say to her : * I go 

discoursing of a friend of thine.' [146] 




[Of the author's love of philosophy and hatred of all 
that is counter to her. Of a pernicious error as 
to the nature of true nobility. How the author, 
being brought to a stand in his speculative studies 
by a certain problem, and still desiring to serve 
his lady, turned his mind to the refutation of 
this error whereby men's hearts are estranged 
from her.] 

How Love, according to the unanimous opinion of 
friends the sages who have discoursed of it, and as we 
love m ggg ijy continuous experience, is that which 
brings together and unites the lover to the 
person loved. Wherefore Pythagoras says, 
* In friendship many are made one.' And in- 
asmuch as when things are united they naturally 
communicate their qualities to each other, in- 
somuch that sometimes the one is [lo^ com- 
pletely transformed to the nature of the other, 
it comes to pass that the emotions of the loved 
person enter into the loving person, so that the 
love of the one is communicated to the other, 
and in like manner hatred and longing and 
every other passion. So that the friends of 
the one are loved by the other, and the enemies 
hated ; wherefore in the Greek proverb it says : 
'AH things should be common between friends.' 
So when I became the friend of this lady, men- 
tioned above in the [203 real exposition, I 
began to love and to hate in accordance with 
her love and hatred. I began, therefore, to 
love those who follow the truth, and to hate 
those who follow error and falsity, even as does 


But inasmuch as everything is lovable in Error 
itself, and nought is to be hated save for the f}°^^ 
evil superinduced upon it, it is reasonable and 
right to hate not things, but their badness, and 
to strive to sever it from them [^303. And if 
any other is intent upon this, ray most excellent 
lady is most intent ; I mean upon severing from 
things the badness which is the cause of their 
being hated ; for in her is all reason, and in 
her, as in its fountain, is the right. I, following 
her in deed as in emotion, to the best of my 
power, abominated and disprized the errors ot 
men, to the infamy or blame not of the erring 
ones, but of the errors ; blaming which I [40] 
thought to make them displeasing, and when they 
had become displeasing, to separate them from 
those who for their sake were hated by me. 

Amongst which errors there was one that I 
chiefly reprehended, which, inasmuch as it is 
not only hurtful and perilous to those who are 
involved in it, but even to the rest who repre- 
hend it, I set about severing from them and 
condemning. This is the error concerning 
human excellence, in so far as it is sown by 
nature in us, which ought to be called nobility ; 
which error, by [50] evil habit and lack of 
intellect, was so entrenched that the opinion of 
almost everyone had thereby been falsified ; and 
from false opinion sprang false judgments, and 
from false judgments sprang unjust reverence 
and vilipending, whereby the good were held in 
base contempt, and the bad honoured and ex- 
alted. Which thing was the worst confusion 
in the world, as he may see who subtly con- 
sidereth what may C^oJ follow therefrom. And 

*30 fHE CONVIViO Ch. 

Aproblem inasmuch as this my lady a little estranged her 
concern- tender looks from me (especially in those parts 
matter wherein I considered and searched out whether 
the prime matter of the elements was under- 
stood by God), therefore I abstained for a season 
from frequenting her countenance, and, as 
though sojourning away from her presence, I 
set about contemplating in thought the defect 
of men with respect to the aforesaid error. 
And to [I703 avoid idleness, which is the 
chief enemy of this lady, and to quench that 
error which robs her of so many friends, I 
purposed to cry aloud to the folk, who were 
going on the wrong path, in order that they 
might direct themselves on the right way ; and 
I began an ode, the opening of which I said : 

The siveet rhymes of love 'which I ivas zoonty 

wherein it is my purpose to bring back folk to 
the right way concerning the proper [Bo] 
knowledge of real nobility, as may be seen by 
making acquaintance with its text, on the ex- 
pounding of which I am now intent. And 
inasmuch as in this ode I am intent on so 
needful a succour, it was not well to speak 
under any figure, but it behoved me to provide 
this medicine by the quick way, in order that 
health, the corruption of which was hurrying to 
so foul a death, might be quickly restored. 
There will be no need, then \j)0~\, to disclose 
any allegory in expounding it, but only to ex- 
plain the sense according to the letter. By my 
lady I still understand the same, of whom was 
the discourse in the preceding ode, to wit, that 
most virtuous light, philosophy, whose rays 


make the flowers bud, and bear as fruit that Nobility 
true nobility of man, concerning which the ode 
before us purposes to speak in full. 

20. The real exposition. Compare II. 13 : 3. 

46. I take this to mean that even those who are least 
affected by this false opinion suffer from the general 
confusion of judgment and moral chaos which it brings 

62-65. -^ misunderstanding of this passage has had 
portentous consequences on the reading of Dante's mental 
history. See Appendix, pp. 428-430. The word intesa 
is ambiguous; it certainly cannot mean 'created,' but 
it may mean either ' intended' or 'understood.' If it 
means ' intended,' the question that perplexed Dante 
was whether the existence of first matter was part of 
the divine intention, in the sense of being one of the 
things that moved God to the creation, or whether it was 
merely incidentally involved in the creation, without being 
itself desired on its own account. Compare III. 12 : 
68 ff. If, as is more probable, it means 'understood,' 
the question is a subtle one, which may well have per- 
plexed the student. We understand a thing when we 
know its causes and its essential nature. Now, an indi- 
vidual cannot be defined. If I make two desks, indis- 
tinguishable in form, out of two indistinguishable pieces 
of oak, my understanding of the nature, etc., of the two 
must be identical ; they are distinguished only by what 
the scholastic writers call their ' numerically distinct ' 
material. Thus the Jcrm is the ' intelligible principle,' 
and the material \i the 'individuating principle.' Now 
when we go back to the prima materia, which has no 
characteristics or form whatever, but is the potentiality 
of everything and the actuality of nothing, it lacks the 
very principle of intelligibility. In what sense, then, 
if any, can God be said to understand it ? It is as if we 
should ask whether God could weigh or measure a pure 
spirit that has neither weight nor dimensions. It is a 
purely metaphysical (or perhaps only verbal) point. 

In whichever way we are to understand /«/eM, then, no 
question of doctrine is involved. Moreover, if in this 
passage, Dante were really referring to the question (in 
dispute between Avcrroes and the Christian Aristotelians) 


whether yirj? matter was created by God or was eternal 
there would still be no implication in the phrase he uses 
that he regarded it as an open question. For any investi- 
gation (or even thesis, compare IV. 29 : 13-36) is called 
a ' question ' by the Schoolmen ; and the headings of the 
chapters are usually given us in the form of questions. 
Thus this very matter is discussed by Thomas Aquinas 
{Summa 1^ qu, 44, art. 11) under the form Utrum materia 
prima iit creata a Deo — * Whether first matter was created 
by God.' In pondering on this question Aquinas had no 
doubt as to the answer (which had been given by the 
Church), and no more need Dante have had, had he 
found his ponderings on this ' question' so bewildering as 
to oblige him to turn away for a time to other subjects 
in order to recover intellectual tone. We have seen, 
however, that the ' question ' which actually was perplex- 
ing him (whatever it may have been) was not this. 


[Of the division of the ode into (I.) proem and (II.) 
treatise; and of the threefold division of the 
proem, (a) Of his lady's sternness, (b) Of the 
observations of times and seasons ; and of the 
author's present purpose. Of the meaning of 
' rhyme. ' Of a seeming discrepancy between the 
proem and the treatise, {c) Of the author's in- 
vocation of truth, and of the self-contemplation 
of philosophy.] 

Proem At the beginning of the exposition we have 

and undertaken, the better to give to understand the 

treatise meaning of the ode before us, it behoves us first 

I. II. to divide it into two parts ; for in the first part 

the proem is spoken, in the second the treatise 

follows. And the second part begins at the 

beginning of the second verse, where it says : 


A certain one held empire luho would have Of his 
gentlehood. lady's 

[_iO~] The first part again may be comprised I- 
in three members. The first contains the reason a, b, c. 
why I depart from my accustomed speech ; in 
the second I say what it is my intention to treat 
of; in the third I ask aid of that which may 
most aid me, namely the truth. The second 
member begins : 

And because meseems 'tis time for waiting. 

The third begins : 

And at the outset I call upon that Lord. 

\_^o~\ I say, then, that it behoves me to drop a. 
the sweet rhymes of love which my thoughts 
were wont to search out ; and I assign the 
cause, when I say that it is not because I 
purpose to make no more rhymes of love, but 
because unwonted looks have appeared in my 
lady which have bereft me of matter for speaking 
of love at the present. Where, be it known, 
the gestures of this lady are not here called 
[303 scornful and haughty save according to 
appearance ; even as in the tenth chapter of the 
preceding treatise may be seen how on 
another occasion I declare that the appearance 
was discordant from the reality ; and how this 
may be (that one same thing may be sweet and 
may appear bitter, or be clear and appear ob- 
scure) can there be sufficiently perceived. 

Next when I say : 

And because meseems 'tis time /or waiting, 
I tell, as already observed, [40] whereof I 3. 


Of times purpose to treat. And here we are not to pass 
^^^ dryshod over what is implied in ' time for 
^^^^'^^ waiting ' (since that is the chief cause of my 
procedure), but are to consider how reasonable 
it is to await the right season in all our doings, 
and especially in our speech. Time, as Aristotle 
says in the fourth of the Physics, is ' the enumera- 
tion of movement in respect to before and after.' 
It is the enumeration \_^o~\ of the movement of 
the heavens, which disposes things here below 
diversely to receive the several informing powers ; 
for the earth is one way disposed in the 
beginning of spring to receive into herself the 
power that informs grasses and flowers, and 
in another way in winter ; and one season is 
otherwise disposed than another, with regard to 
receiving the seed. And in like manner our 
mind, in so far as it is based upon the composition 
of our body, {jSo~\ which must needs follow the 
circulation of the heavens, is one way disposed 
at one time, and another at another. Wherefore 
words, which are like the seed of activities, must 
be very discreetly retained and let go, both in 
order that they may be well received and brought 
to fruit, and in order that on their own side they 
fail not by sterility. And therefore forethought 
as to time must be taken, both for him who 
speaks and for him who is to \^']o~\ hear : for if 
the speaker be disposed amiss his words are 
often hurtful : and if the hearer be disposed 
amiss words which are good are ill received. 
And therefore Solomon says in Ecclesiastcs : 
' There is a time to speak and there is a time to 
be silent.' Wherefore I, feeling the disposition 
to discourse of love disturbed within me, for 


the reason which has been told in the preceding Of rhyme 
chapter, thought fit to wait on time, which 
brings [^8oJ with it the goal of every longing, 
and comes of itself, as though with a gift, to 
those who grudge not to wait. Wherefore says 
St. James the Apostle in his Epistle in the fifth 
chapter : ' Behold the husbandman waiteth for 
the precious fruit of the earth, patiently enduring 
until he receive the early and later.' For well- 
nigh all our troubles, if we come to look at their 
origins rightly, proceed \j)0~\ in a way from not 
knowing how to handle time. 

I say that since it seems well to wait, I will 
lay down, that is to say I will let be, ' my tender 
style,' that is the tender fashion I have observed 
in discoursing of love, and I declare that 

/ ivill tell of the ivorth 

whereby man is truly * gentle.' And whereas 
' worth ' may be understood in sundry ways, 
here * worth ' is taken as a capacity of nature, or 
an excellence given by her, as will be seen 
below. And I [looj promise to treat of this 
matter with subtle and harsh rhyme. For we 
are to know that rhyme can be understood in 
two ways, that is to say a larger and a narrower. 
In the narrow sense it means that harmony 
which it is the custom to make in the last 
syllable and the last but one. In the larger 
sense it means that whole way of discourse 
which, in regulated numbers and time, falls into 
rhymed consonance. And it is so that it is to 
be taken and [[iio] understood in this proem. 
And therefore it says ' harsh ' in so far as it 
refers to the sound of the composition, which to 


True suit so weighty a subject should not be smooth ; 
and false and it says ' subtle ' with reference to the mean- 
juagment jj^g ^^ ^^^ words, which proceed by subtle argu- 
ment and disputation. 
And I add : 

Refuting the judgment false and base, 

where there is a further promise to refute the 
judgment of folk filled with error : * false,' that 
is remote from truth ; and ' base,' [120^ that is 
established and confirmed by baseness of mind. 
And heed must be given to this, that in this 
proem the promise is first to treat of the true and 
then to refute the false ; and in the treatise the 
opposite is done ; for first the false is refuted, 
and then the true is handled ; which seems not 
to correspond to the promise. And therefore be 
it known that though both the one and the 
other be intended, the chief intention is to treat 
of the true ; and to refute [130] the false is so 
far intended as it conduces to making the truth 
more plainly appear. And here the promise to 
treat of the truth comes first, as the main intent, 
which brings to the mind of the hearers the 
longing to hear ; in the treatise the false is first 
refuted in order that when wrong opinions have 
been dis-ipated the truth may be more freely 
received. And this method was observed by 
the master of human reason, Aristotle, who 
always first [^140] fought with the opponents of 
the truth, and then, when they had been con- 
victed, demonstrated the truth. 
<:• Finally, when I say : 

And at the outset I call upon that Lord, 


I summon truth to be with me, which is that Philo- 
Lord who dwelleth in the eyes, to wit, in the sophy 
demonstrations, of philosophy. And verily the ^ "^^a' 
truth is Lord, for when espoused thereto the 
mind is Lat/y, and otherwise she is a servant, 
without all liberty. 
[[150]] And it says: 

So that of herself she is enamoured, 

because philosophy, which, as was said in the 
preceding treatise, is * the loving exercise of 
wisdom,' contemplates herself when the beauty 
of her eyes is revealed to herself. And what 
else is this but to say that the philosophising soul 
not only contemplates the truth, but also con- 
templates its own contemplation and the beauty 
thereof, []i6oJ turning upon itself and enamour- 
ing itself of itself by reason of the beauty of its 
direct contemplation ? And thus ends what the 
text of the present treatise brings, by way of 
proem, in three members. 

47-52. In the Piysics, Aristotle discusses the con- 
ceptions of time, space and mo-vemefit, showing that the 
definition of any one of them involves our already having 
a conception of some other. Time is the enumeration, or 
succession, of movement, and the succession of the heavenly 
movements is the basis of all measurements of time. 
Compare Paradise, XXVII. 109-120. 

67. A word spoken out of season may be inherently 
sterile, whatever goodwill the hearer may have. 

87. That is, the earlier and the later fruit, or crops. 

152. See III. 12 : 94, 95. Compare 14: 6-10. 



[(II.) Ofthethreefold division of the substantive portion 
of the ode. {a) False opinions as to nobility. (3) 
The true doctrine, (c) The tornata. (a) And first 
(o) the statement, and then (j8) the refutation of the 
false opinions, (a) The distinction between (i. ) the 
false opinion of the Emperor Frederick, and (ii.) 
the more worthless variation upon it by others. 
Digression on the seeming support that these 
opinions derive from the authority of Aristotle, 
and from the imperial majesty. And first of this 

Of subtle Having inspected the meaning of the proem, 

divisions {}^g treatise is to follow ; and the better to show 

it forth it behoves to divide it into its chief 

II. parts, which are three : for in the first nobility 

a, b, c. is treated according to the opinions of others ; in 

the second it is treated according to the true 

opinion ; in the third the speech is directed to 

the ode, by way of a certain adorning of what 

has been said. \j-0~\ The second part begins : 

/ affirm that every virtue in principle. 

The third begins : 

Against the erring ones take thou thy ivay, 
my ode. 

And after these general sections other divi- 
sions must needs be made, rightly to apprehend 
the meaning which is to be set forth. And let 
none marvel if we proceed by means of many 
divisions ; inasmuch as it is a great and lofty work 
that is now under our hands, and little investi- 
gated by authors ; nor let them marvel [^2oJ that 
the treatise whereon I am now entering must 


needs be long and subtle, to unravel the text per- Frederick 
fectly according to the meaning which it bears. ofSwabia 

I say then that this first part is now to be a. 
divided into two : for in the first are laid down a, ^. 
the opinions of others ; in the second they are 
refuted ; and this second part begins : 

He ivho defines : ' Man is a living trunk.' 

Q30] Again, what is still left as the first part a. 
has two members : the first is the definition of i. ii. 
the opinion of the Emperor ; the second is the 
variation on his opinion by the vulgar herd, 
which is bare of all reason. This second 
member begins : 

yind some other 'was there of lighter wisdom. 

I say then : i- 

y/ certain one held empire^ 

that is to say, such an one exercised the imperial 
office. And here be it known that Frederick 
of Swabia, the last emperor of the Romans 
[^403 (1 say the last up to the present time, 
notwithstanding that Rudolf and Adolf and 
Albert have been elected since his death and that 
of his descendants), when asked what gentle- 
hood was, answered that it was * ancient wealth 
and gracious manners.' And I say that ii. 

Some other was there of lighter wisdom j 

who, weighing and turning about this definition 
on every side, cut oiF the last clause, to wit, the 
' gracious manners,' and clung to the first [^50], 
to wit, the * ancient wealth.' And as the text 
seems to conjecture, it was haply because he 


Supports himself had not fair manners, that, not wishing 
of the to lose the name of gentlehood, he defined it 

ooinions according as it made for him, to wit the pos- 
session of ' ancient wealth.' And I declare 
that this opinion is that of almost every one, 
saying that after him went all those who hold 
one gentle because he springs from a race that 
has long been rich ; inasmuch as almost all bark 
out this. 

[603 These two opinions, although the one, as 
has been said, is utterly to be neglected, seem to 
have two weighty reasons to support them. The 
first is the Philosopher's declaration that what is 
the opinion of the majority cannot be absolutely 
false ; the second is the most excellent authority 
of the imperial majesty. And that the power 
of the truth which confutes all authority may be 
the better seen, I purpose to expound how sup- 
porting and weighty is each [_Jo'] one of these 

And in the first place, we can have no know- 
ledge concerning the imperial authority, unless 
its roots be found. And these we must expressly 
handle in a special chapter. 

(i) is not taken up till p. 309. See analytical note at 
the end of this treatise. 

28. (j3) is taken up parenthetically on p. 259, and 
regularly on p. 276. 

38. Frederick the Second, 1194-1250 a.d. King of 
Sicily and Naples from 1197, and Emperor from 1212. 
The best accounts of him for the purpose of the student 
of Dante will be found in the pages ofVillani. (^Selec- 
tions from the Chronicles of Villani. Selfe & Wicksteed. 

64. There are several passages in Aristotle which 
Dante may have had in his mind, but probably he was 
thinking of Ethics, VII. xiv. : 5 ! Fama autem non omnino 


pcrdltur quam populi ntulti famant, which is really a quo- 
tation (from Hesiod), though there was nothing in the 
translation to enable Dante to recognise it as such. It is 
extremely strange that Dante has overlooked the fact that 
the very portion of Frederick's definition which he 
criticises is directly taken from Aristotle himself. ('For 
nobility is ancient wealth and virtue,' Pol, IV. viii. : 9.) 
This fact destroys the whole of his elaborate evasion of 
the charge of recalcitrance against due authority, and 
would throw him back on his nobler principle of the 
victorious truth, above all authority. Compare IV. 3 : 
43-45 ; 9 : 167-173 ; 10 : 9-12, 54-65 ; see Appendix, 
p. 427. 


[Of the need of a supreme head to regulate human 
affairs. That the Roman empire was established 
to meet this need ; two great proofs of which 
shall be shown in the next chapter.] 

The root foundation of the imperial majesty is Of human 
in truth the necessity of human civility ; which civihty 
is ordained for a certain end, to wit the life of 
felicity ; to the which no man is sufficient to 
attain by himself without the aid of any, inas- 
much as man hath need of many things which 
no one is able to provide alone. 

Wherefore the Philosopher saith that man is 
by nature a \_io~\ social animal. And as an in- 
dividual man requires the companionship of home 
and household for his completeness, so likewise a 
household requires a district for its completeness, 
since otherwise it would suffer many defects which 
would be a hindrance to felicity. And since a 
district cannot satisfy itself in everything, needs 
must there be a city for its satisfaction. And 


The evil further the city requires for its arts and for its 
of wars (Jefence Q203 to have mutual relations and 
brotherhood with the neighbouring cities ; 
wherefore the kingdom was instituted. And 
inasmuch as the human mind rests not in the 
limited possession of land, but ever, as we see 
by experience, desires to acquire more territory, 
needs must discords and wars arise betwixt 
kingdom and kingdom. Which things are the 
tribulations of cities, and through the cities of 
districts, and through the districts of households, 
and [[303 through the households of man ; 
and thus is felicity impeded. Wherefore to 
abolish these wars and their causes needs must 
all the earth and whatsoever is given to the 
generations of men for a possession be a mon- 
archy, that is one single princedom having one 
prince ; who, possessing all things and not being 
able to desire more, shall keep the kings con- 
tented within the boundaries of their kingdoms, 
so that there shall be peace between them, in 
[^40] which peace the cities may have rest, and 
in this rest the districts may love one another, 
and in this love the households may receive 
whatsoever they need, and when they have 
received this, man may live in felicity, which 
is that whereto man was born. 

And upon these arguments the words of the 
Philosopher may be brought to bear, which he 
utters in the Politics, that when divers things 
are ordained for one end, one of them must be 
the ruler or guide, and all the rest must be ruled 
or [50] guided by it. Even as we see in a ship 
that the divers offices and divers ends of it are 
ordained to one single end, to wit the making 


of the desired port by a prosperous voyage ; Unity of 
wherein, like as each officer regulates his proper command 
function to its proper end, there is one who 
considers all these ends and regulates them with 
a view to the final end ; and he is the ship- 
master, whose voice all are bound to obey. 
And we see the same [[60]] thing in religious 
orders, and in armies, and in all things which are 
ordained, as aforesaid, to some end. Whereby 
it may be manifestly seen that for the perfection 
of the universal religious order of the human 
race it behoves that there should be one, as 
shipmaster, who, considering the diverse con- 
ditions of the world, and ordaining the diverse 
and necessary offices, should have the universal 
and indisputable office of commanding the whole. 
And this office [^703 is called by pre-eminence 
empire, without any qualification, because it is 
the command of all the other commands. And 
hence he who is appointed to this office is called 
emperor because he is the commander who issues 
all the commands. And what he says is law 
to all, and he ought to be obeyed by all, and 
every other command draws its strength and 
authority from his. And thus it is manifest 
that the imperial [80]] majesty and authority is 
the loftiest in the fellowship of man. 

But some might cavil and say that although 
the office of empire be necessary for the world 
yet it follows not that reason requires the 
authority of the roman prince is to be supreme 
(which is the point we have to make) ; but that 
the Roman power was acquired not by reason 
nor by decree of universal consent, but by (^903 
force, which seems to be the contrary of reason. 


Authority To this we may answer readily that the election 
of Rome gf ^his supreme officer must needs proceed, in 
the first instance, from the counsel which maketh 
provision for all, to wit from God ; since the 
election would else not have been equal for all ; 
since, before the above-said officer, there was no 
one giving his mind to the general good. And 
because there never was, nor shall ever be, a 
nature more sweet in the exercise of lordship, 
more firm [1003 in its maintenance, nor more 
subtle in acquiring it than the nature of the 
Latin folk, (as may be seen by experience), and 
especially that of the hallowed people in whom 
the high Trojan blood was infused, God chose 
that people for such office. So we see that 
since it might not be attained without the greatest 
virtue, nor exercised without the greatest and 
most humane [iioj benignity, this was the 
people who was best disposed to it. Wherefore 
at the beginning the Roman people got it not 
by force, but by the divine providence which 
transcends all reason. And herein doth Virgil 
agree, in the first of the JEneid^ where, speaking 
in the person of God, he says : ' To them (to 
wit, to the Romans) I assign no limit of things 
nor of time. To them have I given empire 
without end.' Force then n^^oj was not the 
moving cause, as the caviller supposed, but was 
the instrumental cause, even as the blows of the 
hammer are the cause of the knife, whereas the 
mind of the smith is the efficient and moving 
cause. And thus not force but reason, and 
moreover divine reason, was the beginning of 
the Rome empire. And that this is so may be 
seen by two most manifest reasons, which show 


that this city was imperial, and had [[1303 divinely 
special birth and special progress from God. conferred 
But inasmuch as this may not be handled in 
the present chapter without excess of length, 
and long chapters are the foes of memory, 1 
will make a further digression of another chapter 
to set forth the arguments indicated above. Nor 
will this be without profit and much delight. 

On the relation of this and the following chapter to 
the De Monarc/iia, see Appendix, p. 425. 

3. Human ci-vility, i.e., man's existence as a citizen. 
Compare ParaJiso, VIII. 115 f. An elementary society 
might be based on difference of sex and age only, but not 
a ci-vility. 

36. Pf^Ao, possessing all things, etc. This argument 
is developed at greater length in the De MonarcAia, I. 
11: 38 ff. It is borrowed from Aristotle. He does 
not use it in the Politics, but treating of government 
incidentally in the EtAics (VIII. xii. (x.), 2), he says : 
' For he only is a king who is an autocrat and who has 
command of all things desired ; and such an one, being 
in need of nothing, would not seek his own advantage, 
but that of his subjects.' 

64. Universal religious order. See Appendix, p. 426. 

70. Empire. Lutin, imperium=' command.' 

97. Until the Emperor was established, there was no 
one who aimed impartially at the good of humanity at 
large ; and therefore until there was an emperor there 
was no one qualified to elect an emperor. From this 
vicious circle there was no escape except by divine 



[(a) The divine origin of the Roman empire manifested 
chiefly (i.) in the coincidence of time between the 
birth of David, the founder of the family whence 
Mary sprang, and the coming to Italy of yEneas, 
the founder of the Roman empire, and (ii.) the 
coincidence between the birth of Christ and the 
perfection of the Roman empire under Augustus. 
And. (b) the divine growth of the Roman empire 
manifested (i. ) by the divine virtue of her citizens, 
and (ii. ) by the divine miracles and favours that 
protected her. ] 

Heaven It is no marvel if the divine providence, which 
and earth utterly surpasses angelic and human perception, 
proceeds many times by ways hidden to us ; in- 
[a. asmuch as even human operations many times 
conceal their purport from men themselves. But 
it is matter for great marvel if ever the working 
out of the eternal counsel proceeds so manifestly 
that [lo] our reason discerns it. 

Wherefore, at the beginning of this chapter, I 
may speak with the mouth of Solomon, who 
saith in his Proverbs^ in the person of wisdom : 
' Hearken ! for I am to speak of great things.' 
[i. When the immeasurable divine goodness willed 
to reconform to itself the human creature 
(which was parted from God by the sin of the 
disobedience of the first man, [20~\ and thereby 
deformed), it was appointed in the most lofty 
and united divine consistory of the Trinity that 
the Son of God should descend to earth to effect 
this harmony. And inasmuch as at his coming 
into the world it was meet that not only heaven 
but earth should be in its best disposition, — and 


the best disposition of earth is v/hen it is a Founding 
monarchy, that is to say, when it is all subject to o^ Troy 
one prince, as aforesaid, [30] — therefore that ^~^|\, 
people and that city who were destined to bring jj^g 
this about, (to wit the glorious Rome), were or- 
dained by the divine providence. And because 
the abode wherein the celestial king must enter 
ought to be most clean and pure there was like- 
wise ordained a most holy family from the which 
after many merits should be born a woman 
supremely good amongst all the rest, who should 
be the treasure house of the Son of God. And 
this family is [^403 that of David. And the 
triumph and honour of the human race, Mary to 
wit, was born from it. Wherefore it is written 
in Isaiah ' a rod shall spring out of the root of 
Jesse and a flower shall spring up from his root.' 
And Jesse was the father of the above- said 
David. And it was all at the same point of 
time wherein David was born and Rome was 
born, that is to say -£neas came into Italy from 
Troy, which was the origin of the most noble 
city of Rome, [50] as testify the scriptures. 
Whereby the divine election of the Roman 
empire is manifest enough ; to wit by the birth 
of the holy city being at the same time as the 
root of the family of Mary. And incidentally 
we may note that since the heaven itself began 
to roll it ne'er was in better disposition than at 
the time when he who made it and who rules it 
came down below ; as even now by virtue of 
their [60] arts the mathematicians may retrace. 
Nor was the world ever so perfectly disposed, U.] 
nor shall be again, as then when it was guided 
by the voice of one sole prince and commander 


Universal of the Roman people, as Luke the evangelist 
peace beareth witness. And therefore there was uni- 
versal peace which never was before nor shall be, 
and the ship of the human fellowship was speed- 
ing straight to the due port in tranquil voyage. 
Oh ineffable and C70J incomprehensible wisdom 
of God, which against thy coming into Syria 
didst make so great preparation beforehand in 
heaven above and here in Italy ; and oh most 
foolish and vilest brutes, pasturing in the sem- 
blance of men, who presume to discourse against 
our faith, and with your spinning and delving 
would fain know what God hath ordained with 
so great wisdom ! Cursed be ye, and your pre- 
sumption, and whoso believeth on you ! 
[b. C^^II And, as hath been said before at the 
end of the preceding chapter, not only had she a 
[i. special birth from God but special progress ; for 
briefly beginning from Romulus, who was her first 
father, until her most perfect age, that is to say 
the time of the aforesaid emperor, she advanced 
not by human but by divine activities. For if 
we consider the seven kings who first [903 
governed her, Romulus, Numa, TuUus, Ancus 
and the Tarquin kings, who were like the 
guardians and protectors of her childhood, we 
may find from the scriptures of the Roman 
histories, and especially from Titus Livius, that 
they were all of diverse nature according to the 
needs of the period of time which was proceeding 
in their day. Then if we consider her more 
advanced youth, when she was emancipated from 
the guardianship of royalty by Brutus, the first 
[[looj consul, even until Caesar, the first supreme 
prince, we shall find that she was uplifted not by 


human but by divine citizens, into whom was Divine 
inspired not human but divine love, in their love citizens of 
of her. And this could not nor might not be, *^o™c 
save for some special end, purposed by God in 
so great an infusion of heaven. And who shall 
say that it was without divine inspiration that 
Fabricius refused an almost infinite quantity of 
gold because he would not [no] abandon bis 
fatherland ; that Curius, whom the Samnites 
tried to corrupt, refused a huge mass of gold for 
love of his fatherland, saying that the Roman 
citizens desired to possess not gold but the 
possessors of the gold ; that Mutius burnt his 
own hand because he had missed the blow 
whereby he had thought to deliver Rome ? 
Who shall say of Torquatus, who judged his 
own son to death for [120] love of the public 
good, that he endured this without divine help ? 
And the above-said Brutus, in like manner ? 
Who shall say it of the Decii and of the Drusi, 
who laid down their life for their country ? And 
of the captive Regulus, sent from Carthage to 
Rome to exchange the captive Carthaginians 
against himself and the other captive Romans, 
who shall say that when the legation had with- 
drawn, the advice he gave, for love of Rome, 
against himself, was prompted only by human 
nature? [1303 Who shall say of Quintus 
Cincinnatus, who was appointed dictator and 
taken from the plough, and after his term of 
office laid it down of his own accord, and went 
back to his ploughing ; who shall say of Camillus, 
banished and cast into exile, that he came to 
free Rome from her foes, and when he had freed , 

her withdrew of his own will into exile so as not 


Divine to offend the authority of the senate, without 
protection divine instigation? [140] O most hallowed 
of Rome bogQj^ of Cato, who shall presume to speak of 
thee ? Verily none can speak of thee more 
worthily than by keeping silence, and following 
the example of Jerome, who in his proem to the 
Bible, where he comes to tell of Paul, says that 
it were better to hold one's peace than to come 
short in speech. Of a surety it must be manifest, 
when we remember the life of these and of the 
other divine citizens, that not without some light 
of the divine goodness, superadded to the ex- 
cellence of their own nature, [150] such marvels 
[ii. were done. And it must be manifest that these 
most excellent ones were instruments wherewith 
the divine providence proceeded in the Roman 
empire, wherein many a time the arm of God 
was seen to be present. And did not God set 
his own hand to the battle in which the Albans 
fought with the Romans, at the beginning, for 
the headship of rule, when one only Roman held 
in his hands the [1603 freedom of Rome: 
Did not God interpose with his own hand when 
the Franks had taken all Rome and were seizing 
the capitol by stealth at night, and only the voice 
of a goose gave notice of it ! Did not God 
interpose with his own hand when in the war of 
Hannibal so many citizens had perished that 
three bushels of rings were carried off to Africa, 
and the Romans were ready to abandon their 
land had not that blessed [1703 Scipio, young 
as he was, undertaken his expedition into Africa 
for the deliverance of Rome ? And did not 
God interpose with his own hand when a recent 
citizen, of small estate, TuUy to wit, defended 


the liberty of Rome against so great a citizen as Rever- 
was Catiline ? Yea, verily. Wherefore we ®**ce for 
need demand no more in order to see that a **°'"® 
special birth and special progress, thought out 
and ordained by God, was that of the holy city. 
[|i8o3 And verily I am of firm opinion that 
the stones that are fixed in her walls are worthy 
of reverence, and the soil where she sits more 
worthy than man can preach or prove. 

91. Probably the right reading is // re Tarquinii, not /;' 
tre Tarquinii, following ^neid, VI. 8i8. In either case 
Dante must have intended to include Servius Tullus as a 
Tarquin (Toynbee). 

170. Scipione g'wvane. This cannot be rendered 
' Scipio the younger,' for the reference is to the elder 
Scipio Africanus, who was thirty at the time here referred 
to. Compare Paradiso, VI. 52, 53. 


[Of authority, and to whom it pertains. Of the 
authority of one artificer over another, and of 
Aristotle as the supreme artificer, who, contem- 
plating the supreme goal of hfe, hath authority 
over all the rest. Of the union and divorce of 
philosophy and temporal power.] 

Above, in the third chapter of this treatise, pro- Authority 
raise was given to discourse of the loftiness of 
the imperial authority and of the philosophic. 
And therefore, having discussed of the imperial 
authority, my digression must further proceed to 
the inspection of that of the philosopher, accord- 
ing to the promise made. And our first busi- 
ness here is to see what * authority ' means, 
because there Qio^ is more need of knowing it , 

here than in the discourse concerning the 


Of poetic imperial authority, which by reason of its 
authors majesty does not seem to be questioned. 

Be it known, then, that ' authority ' is nought 
else than the act of an author. This word (to 
wit auctor, without the third letter c) may spring 
from two principles ; the one is that of a verb, 
dropped very much out of use in Latin, which 
signifies [20] as much as ' binding words to- 
gether,' to wit auieo. And whoso regards it 
well, in its first form, will clearly perceive that 
it shows its own meaning, for it is made of 
nought save the bonds of words, that is to 
say of the five vowels alone, which are the soul 
and juncture of every word ; and it is composed 
of them in lithe manner, to figure the image 
of the tie. For beginning with a it turns 
thence to u, and then goes straight by / to ^, 
whence it goes back and [30] returns to 0, 
so that truly they image forth this figure, 

which is the figure of a tie. And in as far as 
• author ' is derived and descends from this verb, 
it is understood only of poets, who have bound 
their words with the art of music : and with this 
significance we are not at present concerned. 

The other principle whence * author ' descends, 
according to the testimony of Uguccione in the 
[[403 beginning of his Derivations^ is a Greek 


word which is called ' autentin,' which is as Of Aris- 
much as to say in Latin, ' worthy of faith and totle's 
of obedience.' Thus ' author,' so derived, is *"'"0"'y 
understood of every person worthy of being 
believed and obeyed. And hence comes that 
word of which we are treating, namely, ' author- 
ity ' ; whereby we may see that * authority ' is 
as much as ' utterance worthy of faith and of 

[50] It is manifest that Aristotle is most 
worthy of faith and of obedience. And that 
his words are the supreme and most lofty 
authority may be thus proved : Amongst the 
workers and artificers of divers arts and opera- 
tions which are ordained for one linal operation 
or art, the artificer or operator of that final art 
should be mainly obeyed and trusted by all, as he 
who alone considers the ultimate goal of all the 
other goals. Wherefore the sword-maker f 6oj 
and the rein and saddle-maker and the shield- 
maker should trust the cavalier, and so should 
all those trades which are ordained for the art of 
chivalry. And inasmuch as all human activities 
demand one goal, to wit the goal of human life, 
whereto man is ordained as man, the master 
and artificer who explains and considers this 
should be mainly obeyed and trusted ; and this 
is Aristotle : therefore [70] he is most worthy 
of iaith and of obedience. And to perceive 
how Aristotle is the master and leader of the 
human reason, inasmuch as he is intent upon 
its conclusive activity, it behoves us to know 
that this our goal, which each one naturally 
desires, was sought for in very ancient times 
by the sages. And inasmuch as they who desire 


Of the this goal are so numerous, and the appetites differ 

goal of in almost every single case, though [So'] there 

be one universal goal, yet was it right hard to 

discern it, as that wherein every human appetite 

would find direct repose. 

There were then certain very ancient philo- 
sophers, of whom the first and chief was Zeno, 
whose view and belief was that the goal of this 
human life is solely rigid integrity ; that is to 
say rigidly to pursue truth and justice, without 
respect to aught ; to show no grief, to show 
Il9°3 gladness at nothing, to have no sense of 
any emotion. And this is how they defined 
this integrity, * That which, apart from utility 
and apart from result, is, for its own sake, to be 
praised by reason.' And they and their sect 
were called Stoics, and of them was that glorious 
Cato of whom I dared not to speak above. 

There were other philosophers whose view 
and belief was different from theirs ; and of these 
the first and chief was a philosopher who was 
[^looj called Epicurus ; who, seeing that every 
animal as soon as it is born, and as though 
directed by nature to the due goal shuns pain 
and seeks pleasure, said that this our goal was 
voluptuary ( I do not say ' voluntary ' but write 
it with a />), that is to say, delight without pain. 
And moreover, between delight and pain he 
placed no middle term, saying that * voluptuous ' 
was no other than ' without pain ' ; as Tully 
seems to recount in the [ 1 1 o^ first of the Goal 
of Good. And of these, who are called Epi- 
cureans after Epicurus, was Torquatus, the noble 
Roman, descended from the blood of the glorious 
Torquatus of whom I made mention above. 


There were others — and they took their rise The aca- 
from Socrates, and then from his successor demicians 
Plato — who, looking more subtly, and seeing f",j ■'"^s- 
and perceiving that in our activities we might 
and did err by excess and [120] by defect, 
said that activity without excess and without 
defect, according to the standard of the mean 
selected by our choice, which is virtue, was that 
goal whereof we are at present discoursing. 
And they called it ' virtuous activity.' These 
were called the Academicians (of whom were 
Plato and his nephew Speusippus), so called 
because of the place where Plato studied, to wit 
the Academy ; and they did not take their name 
from Socrates because [^1303 in his philosophy 
nothing was affirmed. 

But Aristotle, whose surname was Stagirites, 
and Xenocrates the Chalcedonian, his com- 
panion, by means of the almost divine intellect 
which nature had imparted to Aristotle, coming 
to knowledge of this goal pretty much by the 
method of Socrates and the Academicians, put 
the finishing touches on moral philosophy and 
brought it to perfection, especially Aristotle. 
And because Aristotle set the fashion of dis- 
coursing [^1403 while walking backwards and 
forwards they were called (I mean he and his 
companions) ' Peripatetics,' which is as much 
as to say • they who walk about.' And because 
the perfection of this moral science was brought 
to its limit by Ajistotle the name of the Acade- 
micians was quenched, and all they who learnt 
from this sect were called Peripatetics ; and 
these yet hold sway over the world every- 
where in teaching, and their doctrine may in a 


Philo- way be called the [ 1 503 Catholic opinion ; 
sophic whereby it may be seen that Aristotle is he 
imoerial ^^^'^ directs and conducts folk to this goal ; and 
authority ^^^^ '^^ what we wished to show. 

Wherefore, to sum up, my main contention is 
now obvious, namely, that the authority of the 
supreme philosopher, with whom we are now 
concerned, is in full and complete vigour. And 
it is not opposed to the imperial authority, but 
the latter without the former is perilous and the 
former without the latter [[i6oj has a kind of 
weakness, not in itself but because of the dis- 
orderliness of men, so that when the one is 
bound up with the other they are most profitable 
and full of all vigour. And therefore it is 
written in that of Wisdom, ' Love the light of 
wisdom all ye who are before the peoples,' 
which is to say, ' Let the philosophical authority 
unite with imperial, for good and perfect rule.' 
Oh wretched ye who at the present rule ! (and 
oh most wretched [170] ye who are ruled !) 
for no philosophic authority unites with your 
government, neither by your proper study nor 
by the counsel of others, so that that word of 
Ecclesiastes applies to all, 'Woe to thee, O 
land, whose king is a child, and whose princes 
rise up early to feast ' ; and to no land may what 
follows be addressed, * Blessed is the land whose 
king is noble and whose princes eat in due 
season for necessity and not for luxury.' \^i %o~\ 
Give heed who be at your sides, ye enemies of 
Godjwhohave grasped the rods of thegovernments 
of Italy. It is to you, Charles and Frederick, 
kings, and to you others, chiefs and tyrants, 
that I am speaking. Behold who sit by your 


side to give counsel, and count how many times The goal 
in the day this goal of human life is pointed out o( life 
to you by your counsellors. Better were it for 
you to fly low like a swallow than like the 
kite to make the loftiest wheeling over [[190J 
vilest things. 

20 fF. Dante's authority for this extraordinary (and 
non-existent) verb is the Uguccione (died 1210 a.d.), 
mentioned a little further down in this chapter. He 
■was the author of a work entitled Magnae Deri'vationes, 
which Dante uses very freely (Toynbee). In speaking 
of this verb Uguccione calls it defecti-vum, or defective, 
which Dante appears to have understood as ' lapsed ' or 
'obsolescent.' By its 'first form' I suppose him to 
mean the first person singular present indicative active. 
In line 31 the manuscripts simply give the vowels in 
their ordinary succession — a, e, i, o, u. I have inserted 
the tie as described by Dante. 

49. Utterance Italian, atto, a word which has a wide 
range of meaning. Here I take it to mean ' expression ' 
or 'utterance.' Compare IV. 25 : 20, note. 

60. It is one of Aristotle's principles that the ultimate 
judge of anything is the person who is to use it. The 
man who is to live in a house, not the architect, is the 
judge of a good house. The man who is to live in a 
state, not the man who is to govern it, is the judge of 
good government. 

104. Fo/a/'Wf = ' pleasure.' Some little wrenching 
has been necessary to retain the relation between -volup- 
tade and -uoluntade in the translation. 

147. The Christian Aristotelians, such as Albertus and 
Thomas, were commonly spoken of as Peripatetics in 
Dante's day. 

182. Charles is Charles II. of Naples, known as Carlo 
Zoppo. Born 1243, succeeded to the throne 1285, died 
May 6th 1309. He is frequently mentioned by Dante, 
almost always with contempt. Compare Paradiso, IX. 
1-6, note. Frederick is Frederick II. of Sicily, reigned 
1296-1337 A.D., born 1272 A.D., son of Peter the Third 
of Aragon and of Constance, daughter of Manfred (to be 
carefully di8ting:uished from his great grandfather, the 


Emperor Frederick II., son of another Constance, who 
was also king of Sicily and Naples). On Dante's 
mentions of him see Paradiso, XIX. 130-132, noz-f. A 
comparison of the De Vulgari Eloquentia, I. 12 : 35-40 is 
instructive. There the same two kings are spoken of 
with scorn, and are coupled with John, Marquis of 
Montferrat (in power 1292-1305), and Azzo of Ferrara 
(in power 1293-Jan. 31st, 1308). On the bearing of this 
passage on the date of the Coni/i-vio see Appendix, p. 423. 


[(j3) The protest, out of due order, against the opinion 
of the multitude, and how he whom they call 
noble is oftentimes basest of all.] 

The Since we have seen how the imperial and the 
opinion of philosophical authority, which seemed to support 
tne vulgar ^.j^^ opinions before us, are to be reverenced, we 
are now to return to the direct path of our con- 
templated progress. I say, then, that this last 
opinion of the vulgar has become so inured that 
without inspection of any argument everyone is 
called gentle who is son or grandson [[10 j of any 
worthy man, although he himself be of nought. 
And this is where it says : 

j4nd so inured is such false thought 

amongst us, that folk call that man a 

gentleman, 'who can aver : ' / luas grand- 

son or son of such an one of ivorth,' though he 

himself be nought. 

Wherefore be it noted that it is most perilous 
neglect to suffer a false opinion to gain footing ; 
for just as grass multiplies in an uncultivated 


field and mounts up [^203 and overwhelms the Im- 

ears of corn, so that when one looks from a dis- patience 

tance the corn may not be seen, and the fruit is protest 

finally lost, so false opinion in the mind, if not 

chastised and corrected, grows and multiplies so 

that the ear of reason, to wit the right opinion, 

is concealed and, as it were, buried and lost. Oh 

how great a thing have I undertaken in this ode, 

desiring now to cleanse so weedy a field as this 

[^303 of the common opinion, so long neglected 

of this tillage. Verily I purpose not to cleanse 

it throughout, but only in those parts where the 

ears of reason are not utterly suppressed ; that is 

to say, I purpose to set right those in whom some 

glimmering of reason still survives, in virtue of 

their favoured nature : for of the rest no more 

heed is to be taken than of brute beasts ; because 

it seems to me no less a miracle [40] to bring 

a man back to reason when it has been utterly 

quenched, than to bring back to life him who 

has been four days in the tomb. 

When the evil state of this opinion of the /3. 
people has been related, the ode, clean out of the 
order of the refutation, incontinently smites it as 
a hideous thing, crying : 1= 

But basest doth he seem to whoso looks on truth, 

to give to understand its intolerable pernicious- 
ness, asserting that such as say so lie {_^o~\ to 
the very uttermost ; for he is not only base 
(that is ungentle) but the very basest, who 
is descended from good forebears but is himself 
bad. And I give an illustration from a way 
that has been pointed out ; concerning which 
(to make it clear) I must put a question and 


The answer it, as follows : There is a plain, with 
snow- certain fields and footways — with hedges, ditches, 
covered bQu](iei-Sj logs, and well-nigh every kind of 
obstruction, save on its narrow [603 footways — 
and it has snowed so that the snow covers up 
everything, and gives it the same aspect all 
over, so that no trace of any path is to be seen. 
A man comes from one side of the plain and 
desires to go to a house that is on the other 
side, and by his own ingenuity, that is, by his 
perception and the excellence of his wit, guided 
by himself alone, he goes by the direct path to 
the place he purposes, leaving the footprints of 
his steps behind him. [_']0'2 After him comes 
another and wishes to go to the same house, and 
needs only to follow the footprints already left ; 
and by his own fault that path which the other 
had contrived to find for himself, without guid- 
ance, this man loses, although he has guidance, 
and he twists about amongst the thorns and the 
ruins, and reaches not the quarter where he 
should go. Which of these should be called 
worthy ? I answer : he who went before. 
And what should this second one be called i I 
answer : [80] most base. Wherefore is he not 
called ' not worthy,' that is base ? I answer : 
because he should be called ' not worthy,' that is 
base, who having no guidance should not journey 
rightly ; but because this man had guidance his 
error and his fault cannot be exceeded, and 
therefore he is to be called, not base but basest. 
And thus he who is ennobled in race, by his 
father or by some forebear, and perseveres not 
therein, is not only [90] base, but basest, 
and worthy of all scorn and vituperation, 


more than any other churl. And that men How the 
should be on their guard against this lowest base- degener- 
ness, Solomon, in the twenty-second chapter of f; ^ ^ ^^ 
the Proverbs, bids him who has had a worthy dead 
forebear : ' Pass not the ancient boundaries 
which thy fathers set up,' and earlier, in the 
fourth chapter of the said book, he declares : 
* The path of the just,' that is of the worthy, 
' goeth forward [^loo]] as a shining light, and 
that of the wicked is darkened, and they know 
not whither they plunge.' And finally, when it 
says : 

And he hits nigh to tuho should be a corpse 
yet walk the earth, 

I say, to his further disgrace, that such a basest 
one is dead, though he seem alive. And here 
be it known that a bad man may rightly be 
called dead, and especially he who departs from 
the true path of his worthy forebear. And this 
may be demonstrated fix ©3 thus: as Aristotle 
says in the second Of the Soul, life is the being 
of the thing that is alive, and since life is after 
many fashions (as in plants to vegetate, in 
animals to vegetate and feel, in men to vegetate, 
feel, move, and reason or understand), and things 
should be named from their most noble part, it is 
clear that life in animals (I mean brute animals) 
is feeling, and life in man is [1203 exercising 
the reason. Therefore, if his life is the being of 
man, renouncing the exercise of reason is renounc- 
ing his existence, and so it is being dead. And 
does not he renounce the exercise of reason who 
gives himself no account of the goal of his life ? 
And does not he renounce the exercise of his 


The beast reason who gives himself no account of the 
lives but path he ought to take ? Assuredly he does, 
i^d^^ and this is most manifest in him who has the 
footprints before him and regards them not ; 
and therefore Solomon [^130] says in the fifth 
chapter of the Proverbs : ' He shall die, because 
he had no discipline ; and in the multitude of 
his foolishness shall he be deceived' ; that is to 
say : He is dead who does not become a dis- 
ciple, and who follows not the master. And 
such an one is most base. And of him some 
may say : * How is he dead and yet walks ? ' 
I answer that the man is dead, but the beast 
survives. For, as says the Philosopher in the 
second Of the Soul, [^1403 the powers of the 
soul are graded, as the figure of the quadrangle 
is of higher grade than the triangle and the 
pentagon of higher grade than the quadrangle, 
thus the sensitive is of higher grade than the 
vegetative, and the intellectual of higher grade 
than the sensitive ; and so, just as if you with- 
draw the last side of a pentagon you have a 
quadrangle left, but no longer a pentagon, so if 
you withdraw the last power of the soul, that 
is the reason, the man is no longer left, but 
[[150]] something with a sensitive soul only; 
that is, a brute animal. And this is the mean- 
ing of the second verse of the ode we have in 
hand, wherein are laid down the opinions of 

44 fF. Clean out of the order, etc. The formal refutation 
does not begin till chapter x, 

III fF. That is to say 'to be alive' is the first 'per- 
fection ' or * entelechy ' of an orgariised being which is a 
fit subject of life. Compare II. 14 : 26, note. 


[How the authority of Aristotle does not in truth 
support the popular error. And under what 
conditions a man may withhold his assent from 
an emperor's saying without irreverence towards 
the imperial majesty.] 

The fairest branch that rises from the root of Ofdiscri- 
reason is discrimination ; for, as Thomas says "imating 
in prologue to the Ethics, ' to know the relation ^^^^^^^^^ 
of one thing to another is the proper act of 
reason,' and this is discrimination. One of the 
fairest and sweetest fruits of this branch is the 
reverence which the lesser owes to the greater. 
Wherefore Tully, in the first [10]] Of Offices, 
speaking of the beauty which glows in integrity, 
says that reverence is part of it ; and as this 
reverence is a beautifying of integrity, so its 
opposite is a befouling and demeaning of the 
same, the which opposite may be called irrever- 
ence, or mutiny in our vernacular ; and therefore 
Tully himself, in the same place, says : * Care- 
lessness to know what others think of him is 
the mark not only [20] of an arrogant but of 
a profligate man ; which is no other than to say 
that arrogance and profligacy consists in being 
without knowledge of oneself, which is the 
foundation of the standard of every kind of 
reverence. Wherefore I, desiring to observe all 
reverence of speech, both to the prince and to the 
philosopher, while removing what is pernicious 
from the mind of certain, in order thereafter to 
let in upon it the light of truth, before proceed- 
ing to refute the opinions before us, [^303 shall 
make it clear that in refuting them I do not 


Of the argue with irreverence either towards the imperial 
judg- majesty or towards the Philosopher. For were 
ments of j ^^ show myself lacking in reverence in any 
other part of all this book, it were not so foul a 
blot as if I were to do it in this treatise, wherein 
treating of nobility I am bound to show myself 
[a, b. noble and not churlish. And first I will show 
that I do not presume against the authority of 
the Philosopher, and then [_^o'] I will show that 
I do not presume against the imperial majesty. 
[a. I declare, then, that when the Philosopher 
says, * That which the majority think cannot be 
absolutely false,' he does not mean to speak of 
outward or sensuous judgment, but of inward or 
rational ; for a sensuous judgment in accordance 
with the majority would often be most false, 
especially in the case of the objects common to 
more senses than one, C503 wherein the sense 
is often deceived. Thus we know that to the 
majority the sun appears to be a foot in 
diameter, which is most false, for according to 
the research and discovery which human reason, 
with its attendant arts, has made, the diameter 
of the body of the sun is five times as great as 
that of the earth and half a time over. And 
since the diameter of the earth is [603 six 
thousand five hundred miles, the diameter of 
the sun, which seems to sensuous judgment to 
measure a foot, is thirty-five thousand seven 
hundred and fifty miles. And hereby it is 
evident that Aristotle did not mean sensuous 
judgment, and therefore, if I aim only at refuting 
this sensuous judgment, I am not going counter 
to the purport of the Philosopher, and therefore 
neither do I offend against the reverence due to 


him. [70] And that it is the sensuous judg- Of 
ment which I purpose to refute is manifest, for reverence 
they who so judge, judge only by what they ^^grgnce 
perceive of the things which fortune can give 
and take away ; for when they see alliances and 
distinguished marriages and stupendous buildings 
and great possessions and mighty lordships, they 
suppose them to be the causes of nobleness, 
nay, they suppose them to be nobleness itself. 
Whereas if tiiey [80] judged by rational appear- 
ances they would say the opposite, namely, that 
nobleness is the cause of these things, as will be 
seen below in this treatise. 

And even as I speak not counter to the b.] 
reverence of the Philosopher in refuting this (as 
is plain to see), so I speak not counter to the 
reverence of the empire ; and I purpose to show 
why. But since we are arguing in the face of 
the adversary, the [I903 orator must take great 
heed in his speech lest the adversary draw 
matter therefrom to obscure the truth. I who 
am speaking in this treatise in the presence of so 
many adversaries cannot speak briefly. Where- 
fore, if my digressions are long, let no one marvel. 
I say, then, that to show that I am not irreverent to 
the majesty of the empire we must first consider 
what reverence is. I say that [1003 reverence 
is no other than * the profession of due submission 
by patent sign ' ; and perceiving this, we must 
distinguish between the irreverent and the non- 
reverent. ' Irreverent ' implies privation, non- 
reverent implies negation. So irreverence is 
'withholding due submission by patent sign'; 
non-reverence is the not avowing of submission 
which is not due. A man may repudiate a 


Of ir- thing in two ways. One kind of repudiation 
reverence [^iio] clashes with the truth, when due pro- 
ana un- fgggjQu ig withheld, and this is properly discon- 
reverence . . r r j ^ 

fessing ; in the other way a man may repudiate 

without coming into collision with the truth, 
when he will not confess that which is not ; and 
this is properly denying ; as for instance, for a 
man to repudiate the assertion that he is alto- 
gether mortal is to deny it in the proper sense 
of the word. Wherefore if I deny reverence to 
the empire I am not [^120] irreverent, but I am 
non-reverent, for it is not contrary to reverence, 
inasmuch as it does not clash with it ; even as 
' not being alive ' does not clash with ' life,' but 
* being dead ' clashes with it, for it is the priva- 
tion of it ; whence ' being dead ' is one thing, and 
' not being alive ' is another, for ' not being alive ' 
pertains to stones. And because death implies 
privation, which cannot be save in a subject of 
the habit in question, and stones are not subjects 
of life, therefore they should not be called 
[[130] 'dead' but < not alive.' In like manner 
I, who in this case owe no reverence to the 
empire, am not irreverent in renouncing it, but 
am non-reverent, which is not mutiny nor a 
thing of blame. Nay, reverence (if reverence 
it could be called) would be mutiny, for it 
would result in greater and more real irreverence, 
that is to say irreverence towards nature and 
towards truth, as will [140] be seen below. 
Against this error, that master of the philo- 
sophers, Aristotle, guarded himself in the 
beginning of the Ethics when he says : ' If we 
have two friends, and one of them is the truth, 
we must comply with the truth.' But verily, 


since I have admitted that I am non-reverent, Of undue 
which is denying reverence, to wit denying by submis- 
patent signs submission that is not due, we must ^**"* 
investigate how this act of mine is denying and 
not disconfessing ; that is to say, [^1503 how in 
this case I am not duly subject to the imperial 
majesty. And since the argument must needs 
be lengthy, I purpose to demonstrate it in a 
chapter of its own next following. 

The reader's ' noble intellect ' will not complain of 
being allowed to draw its own conclusions as to the value 
of Dante's attempt to show that the popular opinion he is 
here attacking is not really a judgment at all, whether 
good or bad, but a sense impression. 

49. Common to more senses, etc. The Italian is sensibili 
comuni. * Common sense ' and ' common sensibles ' are 
both of them Aristotelian phrases adopted by the School- 
men ; but they do not correspond to each other, and this 
has naturally caused some confusion. First, as to 
' common sense.' That a thing is sweet you learn from 
the sense of taste ; that it is yellow you learn from the 
sense of vision. Now the difference between sweetness 
and yellowness is a sense difference, yet neither the sense 
of vision nor the sense of taste can give you any account 
of this distinction, for neither of them can take cognisance 
of both the impressions to be distinguished. There must 
therefore be a general or ' common ' sense which can 
distinguish between the impressions of the several special 

But again there are sense objects of which more than 
one sense (specifically sight and touch) can take cog- 
nisance. They are enumerated by Dante in III. 9 : 
59 ff., and these are what are known as the 'common 
sensibles.' It is a cardinal doctrine of Aristotle's that 
the senses cannot be deceived in their proper perceptions, 
but that both sight and touch may err in judging of 
objects of perception common to them both. Compare 
Purgatorio, XXIX. 47. The 'common sensibles,' then, 
are not the ' objects of the common sense,' but the 
* objects common to more senses than one.' 


55. The arts attendant on astronomy are perspective, 
arithmetic and geometry. See II. 3 : 54 ff. 

79-83. Dante does not in any direct way return to 
this subject in the sequel of this treatise. But see I. 10 : 
48 ff. 

1 04. Privation can only be said of the abaence of some- 
thing which would have been suitably present. Compare 
II. 14 : 140, note. 

128. A subject of the habit, that is to say, a thing 
naturally capable of acquiring the habit. See II. 14: 140, 
note (as above), and for habit, I. i : 15, note. 


[The emperor's control is limited to actions that con- 
cern human civility. Now there are actions 
which we can make what we like, and there are 
truths and properties of nature which we cannot 
alter. Moreover, of our actions there are some 
in which we can control nature with certainty 
and make her our servant, and others in which 
we must wait upon her ; and in these latter there 
can be no such authoritative rule as in the former. 
Yet again there are specially delusive cases in 
which some branch of activity appears to come 
under an authority which does not really cover 
it. And all this applies to the imperial art as to 
others. The emperor has full authority over those 
actions pertaining to human civility in which we 
have complete control over nature ; he has less com- 
plete authority over those in which we have to wait 
on nature ; and he has no authority at all (though 
confusions may arise on the subject) where some- 
thing that seems to come within his province is 
really not a question of action at all, but of truth. 
And where the emperor has no authority there is 
no irreverence in not submitting to him.] 

Submis- To see how in this case, that is in refuting or 

^"'"' ^"^ confirming the emperor's opinion, I am not bound 

an un ue ^.^ submission to him, the argument conducted 


above in the fourth chapter of this treatise, con- Limits of 
cerning the imperial office, must be called to authority 
mind ; to wit, that the imperial authority was 
invented for the perfection of human life, and 
that it is [lo] by right the regulator and ruler 
of all our doings, because, so far as our doings 
stretch, so far the imperial majesty has jurisdic- 
tion, and beyond these boundaries it does not 
extend. But like as every art and office of man 
is confined to certain limits by the imperial office, 
so is this empire itself bounded by God within 
certain limits ; nor need we marvel at this, for 
we see that the office and the art of [20]] nature 
is bounded in all its activities. For if we would 
take the universal nature of the whole, it has 
jurisdiction so far as the whole universe — I mean 
the heaven and the earth — extends ; and this is 
up to a certain fixed boundary, as is proved in 
the third of the Physics and in the first Of 
Heaven and Earth. Therefore the jurisdiction 
of universal nature is bounded by certain limits, 
and by consequence so is the [30^ particular. 
Moreover, he doth bound her who is bounded 
by nought, to wit the prime excellence, which is 
God, who alone with infinite capaciousness com- 
prehends infinitude. 

And to perceive the limits of our operations, 
be it known that those only are operations of 
ours which are subject to the reason and to the 
will ; for albeit there are digestive operations in 
us, these are not human, but natural. And be it 
known [40] that our reason is related to four 
kinds of operations, to be considered separately ; 
for there are operations which it only considers 
and does not perform, nor can it accomplish any 


Things of them ; for instance, things natural and super- 
subject to natural, and mathematics ; and operations which it 
*" ^ considers and accomplishes by its own act, which 
are called rational, as are the arts of speech ; and 
operations which it [50]] considers and accom- 
plishes in material external to itself, as are the 
mechanical arts. And all these operations, 
though their consideration is subject to our will, 
are not subject to our will in themselves, for how- 
ever much we might wish that heavy things 
should rise upward by nature, they would not be 
able so to rise ; and however much we might wish 
a syllogism with false premises to be a con- 
clusive demonstration of the truth, it would not 
[603 be one ; and however much we might 
wish a house to sit as firmly when overhanging as 
when straight, it would not ; because we are not, 
properly speaking, makers of these operations, 
but their discoverers. It was another that 
ordained them, and a greater maker who made 
them. There are also operations which our 
reason considers as they exist in the act of will, 
such as attacking and succouring, standing ground 
or fleeing in battle, abiding chaste or wantoning ; 
[70] and these are entirely subject to our will, 
and therefore we are considered good or bad 
on their account, because they are properly ours 
in their entirety ; for, so far as our will can 
have its way, so far do operations that are really 
ours extend. And inasmuch as some equity is 
to be observed, and some iniquity to be avoided, 
in all these voluntary operations, and this equity 
may be missed for two reasons — either lack of 
knowing what it [80]] is or lack of will to pur- 
sue it — therefore was written reason invented, 


both to point it out and to enforce it. Where- Authority 
fore Augustine says : ' If it (equity) were known o^ . 
to men, and when known were observed, there *"*"cers 
would be no need of written reason.' And 
therefore it is written in the beginning of the 
Old Digest : ' Written reason is the art of good 
and of equity.' It is to write, to demonstrate, 
and to enforce this equity that the [[90] official 
is appointed of whom we are discoursing, to wit 
the emperor ; and to him we are subject to the 
extent of those operations, properly our own, of 
which we have spoken, and no further. For 
this reason, in every art and in every trade the 
artificers and disciples are, and ought to be, 
subject to the chief and the master thereof in 
the respective trades and arts, outside of which 
the subjection is annulled, because the chieftaincy 
[1003 is annulled. Wherefore we may in some 
sort say of the emperor, if we wish to figure his 
office by an image, that he is the rider of the 
human will. And how that horse courses over 
the plain without the rider is manifest enough, 
and especially in the wretched Italy which, with- 
out any mediator at all, has been abandoned to 
her own direction. 

And be it observed that the more special 
[iioj a thing is to any art or discipline, the 
more complete is the subjection therein ; for if 
the cause be enhanced, so is the effect. Whence 
we are to know that there be some things so 
purely matter of art that nature is their instru- 
ment, such as rowing with the oar where the art 
makes an instrument of impulsion, which is a 
natural movement ; or as in threshing . . . 
leaven, where the art makes an instrument of 


and its heat, which is [120]] a natural quality. And it 
limits is herein, most of all, that subjection is due to the 
chief and master of the art. And there are 
things wherein the art is an instrument of nature, 
and these are arts in a lesser degree ; and in 
them the artificers are less subject to their chief, 
as in committing seed to the earth, wherein heed 
must be given to the will of nature ; as in issuing 
from a port, wherein heed must be given to the 
natural disposition of the [130] weather. And 
therefore we see that in these things there often 
arises contention amongst the artificers, and the 
superior asks counsel of the inferior. There are 
other things which are not part of an art, but 
seem to have some relation to it, and as to this 
mistakes are often made. And in these things 
the learners are not subject to the artificer or 
master, nor are they bound to trust him, so far as 
the art goes. Thus fishing seems to have [1403 
some connection with navigation, and knowledge 
of the virtues of herbs with agriculture, yet they 
have no common discipline, inasmuch as fishing 
comes under the art of venery and under its 
command, and the knowledge of the virtues of 
herbs under medicine or under some more general 

In like manner, all these points which we 
have discussed with reference to the other arts 
may be ^^50^ noted with reference to the 
imperial art ; for there are regulations in it 
which are pure arts, such as are the laws con- 
cerning matrimony, concerning slaves, concern- 
ing warfare, concerning the successors to titles ; 
and as to these we are entirely subject to the 
emperor without any doubt or hesitation. There 


are other laws which have, as it were, to follow Authority 
the lead of nature, such as constituting a man of o^ empire 
sufficient age for managing his own affairs, and r^Jg* 
herein we are not completely subject. C160J 
There are many others which seem to have 
some relation to the imperial art ; and herein 
those were and are deceived who believe that in 
such matters an imperial pronouncement carries 
authority. For instance, as to ' manhood,' we 
are not to accept any imperial judgment on the 
ground of its being the emperor's. So let us 
render to God that which is God's. And 
accordingly we are not to trust nor accept the 
emperor Nero, who said that fiyo^ manhood 
was beauty and strength of body, but him who 
should say that manhood is the apex of the 
natural life, and that would be the philosopher. 
It is therefore evident that defining * gentlehood ' 
is not a part of the emperor's art, and if it is not 
a part of his art, then in treating of it we are 
not subject to him, and if we are not subject we 
are not bound to reverence him therein, and this is 
exactly what we were in search of. Wherefore 
we may now with full freedom C^^'-'D ^^'^ '*i^^ 
full courage of mind smite upon the breasts of 
the depraved opinions that are current on the 
earth, in order that the true opinion by this my 
victory may hold the field of the mind of those 
for whom it gives vigour to this light. 

39. I understand Dante's general position to be as 
follows : (i.) When we observe, for instance, the heavenly 
bodies we simply note doings in which we can take no 
part; (ii.)when we note the laws of thought, as in logic, 
we note doings which are our own, but which nevertheless 
are not subjects of volition, for we can no more interfere 


with the laws of the syllogism than we can with the laws 
of planetary movement, and when once we perceive them 
we cannot think otherwise than in accordance with 
them ; (iii.) when we consider the nature and behaviour 
of material things, we have to ascertain facts with which 
we cannot interfere and which we cannot mod if)', but 
upon which we can so act as to secure certain desired re- 
sults ; but (iv.) there are yet other cases concerned with 
our own conduct in which we ourselves have control of 
the result in its inmost and essential nature. This last 
group may in one sense be contrasted with the other 
three ; but from some points of view the first two groups 
may be contrasted with last two, which last two have 
many analogies with each other. Reverting then, for 
illustration, to the third group, Dante maintains that 
(i°) when the knowledge of our instruments and material is 
complete, so that we can exactly predict the consequences 
of our action, we can, within certain limits, make the 
result what we choose, and we must therefore implicitly 
obey the directions of the man who is ultimately respons- 
ible for the result, because he knows exactly what the 
effect of his orders will be, and he alone knows the whole 
case and is in responsible charge of it. But (2°) where the 
conduct of our material and instruments is uncertain, it 
is possible that the person in charge of the result may direct 
us to do something which will produce the contrary of 
what he intends, and here authority is less effective and 
may be regarded as less complete. And further, (3°) there 
are cases in which the person in charge may have no 
knowledge at all of the thing with respect to which he 
gives orders, because it is only in appearance or incidentally 
that it comes within the province to which his knowledge 
extends. Now analogous distinctions hold in the case of 
that imperial authority which refers to our purely voluntary 
actions. (1°) In some cases we can make the result what 
we choose, and the man in supreme charge, contemplat- 
ing the supreme goal, must be implicitly obeyed, because 
he knows the exact force of his injunctions, (2°) There 
are cases in which status is not a matter of definition 
and legal implication merely, but must adapt itself to 
facts that cannot be precisely formulated or predicted, and 
(3°) there are cases which evade the legislator altogether, 
though he may not see it. 


The positive value of this laborious chapter is indeed 
open to question, but its apparent logical confusions 
and intricacies yield to a patient study. 

47. By its own act. That is to say, by actualising 
itself. By the arts of speech, to judge by the illustration 
given lower dov^'n, logic is primarily intended. 

66. In the act of tvill, i.e., they consist in the actualis- 
ing of will power, as those spoken of in line 47 consist in 
the actualising of thought power. 

81. Written reason. That is to say, the Roman Law. 

103. Compare Purgatorio, VI. 88-102. 

1 18. The received text reads without a break : ' Siccome 
net trehhiare ilformento, che V arte fa suo strumento del caldo,' 
and the phrase seems to have given the editors and commen- 
tators (who take formento in the meaning of ' wheat ') no 
trouble. But surely heat is not the instrument of threshing 
wheat ! Aristotle and his disciples enumerate four kinds 
of local movement : pushing, pulling, carrying and twist- 
ing (fulsio, tractio, -vectio and i/^^r/g-o), ultimately reducible 
to the first two. It would be possible (with a little good- 
will) to bring the action of the flail under tractio (which 
rules the working of the joints of the body) or -vertigo ; 
and then, if, as I i\xi'^tct,formento means not wheat, but 
leaven or ferment, the whole passage might originally 
have read: 'As in thrashing grain, where art makes its 
instrument of traction [or torsion], which is also a natural 
movement ; or as in making bread rise, with leaven, 
where art makes its instrument of heat, which is a 
natural quality.' If (as seems hardly probable, however) 
formento was used in both senses, as grain and as ferment, 
the dropping out of the passage between the two occur- 
rences of the word would be explained. 

135. The question as to what is the proper authority 
concerned in any operation is precisely where human 
judgment is most likely to go wrong. 

147. Some more general discipline, such, I suppose, as 
botany. The Italian expression is a little curious, />« 
nobile dottrina . 

173. But note that it is, as a matter of fact, Aristotle's 
own definition that Dante is going to combat. See IV. 
3 : 64, note. 



[(/3) The refutation, in due course, of the emperor's 
opinion, which is false in so far as it coincides with 
that of the vulgar in alleging ancient wealth, and 
inadequate so far as it alleges gracious manners as 
a cause of nobility. The falsity has two roots, in 
that neither (i.) riches, nor (ii.) time, can, as al- 
leged, produce nobleness. Under (i.) we have 
(l°) a general criticism of the emperor's definition, 
and then (2°) the special demonstration that 
wealth, being base, cannot make nobility nor 
unmake, because baseness has no point of contact 
• with nobility and so can in no way affect it.] 

False de- Now that the opinions of others concerning 

fimtions nobility have been laid down, and it has been 

proved that I am free to refute them, I shall 

come to the discussion of that part of the ode 

/3. which contains this refutation ; and it begins, as 

said above : 

He -who defines : ' Man is a living trunk.' 

And 80, be it known that the opinion of the 
emperor (although he set it down defectively) 
did in one phrase, to wit where he said Qioj 
* gracious manners,' really hit some part of the 
ways of nobleness, and therefore there is no 
thought of refuting it there. It is the other 
phrase, which is absolutely foreign to the nature 
of nobleness, that there is thought of refuting ; 
for it seems to indicate two things when it 
speaks of ancient wealth, to wit, time and riches, 
which are utterly foreign to nobility, as I have 
already said, and as I shall prove below. And 
i. ii. therefore the refutation falls into two parts. 
First, riches [2,0^ are rejected and then time 


is rejected as causes of nobleness. The second Irrele- 
part begins : vance of 

riches and 
Nor ivill they have it that a base man can time 
become gentle. 

Be it known that to reject ' riches ' is to 
refute not only that part of the emperor's 
opinion that indicates riches, but the whole of 
the opinion of the vulgar herd, which was based i. 
on riches alone. The first part is divided into 1°, 2°. 
two, [^303 for in the first it is asserted generally 
that the emperor was wrong in his definition of 
nobility ; in the second is shown the reason why ; 
and this second part begins : 

For riches can not (as is held). 

I say then 1°. 

He who dejines : ' Man is a living trunky 

firstly speaks not the truth (that is to say, speaks 
false) in so far as he says * trunk,* and then not 
the whole thing (that is to say, speaks it de- 
fectively), in so far as he says \_^o'] ' living ' and 
does not say ' rational,' which differentiates man 
from beasts. Then I say that in like manner 
did he who ' held empire ' err in his definition ; 
and I say not < emperor,' but ' who held empire,* 
to indicate that, as said above, deciding this 
question is beside the imperial office. Then I 
say that he erred in like manner, because he laid 
down a false subject of nobility, namely, ' ancient 
{_$o~\ wealth,' and then proceeded to a defective 
form (or differentiating principle), to wit 'gracious 
manners,' which do not comprehend the whole 
formal principle of nobleness, but a very small 


Art in part of it, as will be shown below. And we are 
defining not to overlook (though the text says nought 
about it) that in this matter messer the emperor 
not only erred in the phrases of his definition, 
but also in his mode of defining (although 
fame proclaims him to have been a great [^60] 
logician and clerk), for the definition of nobleness 
would be more suitably drawn from its effects 
than from its sources, inasmuch as it appears 
itself to have the character of a source, which 
cannot be made known by the things that precede 
it but by the things that follow from it. Then 
2°. when I say : 

For riches can not (as is held)., 

i. a. I show that they cannot cause nobleness, because 
they are base ; and 1 show that they cannot 
take it away, because they are completely severed 
from nobleness. [70] And 1 show that they 
are base by one very great and manifest defect 
that they have ; and this I do when I say : 

That they he base is apparent, and the rest. 

Finally I conclude, by virtue of what is said 
above, that the upright mind is not changed by 
their translation, which proves what was said 
above, viz., that they are severed from nobleness, 
because the effects of union do not follow. And 
here be it known that, as the Philosopher has it, 
[803 whatever things produce anything the latter 
must needs first exist perfectly in the being of 
the others. Wherefore he says in the seventh of 
the Metaphysics : ' When one thing is generated 
by another, it is generated by it in virtue of ex- 
isting in its being.' Further we are to know 


that everything which is destroyed is destroyed The effect 
because of some preceding change, and anything must 
which is affected must needs be some way con- f^ *" _ 
nected with that change, [^90] as the Philosopher 
has it in the seventh of the Physics and in the 
first Of Generation. These things laid down, I 
thus proceed and say that riches cannot (as folk 
suppose) confer nobility ; and to show their still 
further remoteness from it, I add that they cannot 
take it away from him who has it. ' They i. 
cannot give it,' inasmuch as they are naturally 
base, and by reason that baseness is contrary to 
nobility. And here baseness means [^loo^ 
degenerateness, which is opposed to nobleness, 
inasmuch as one contrary does not nor cannot 
produce the other, for the reason above stated, 
and all this is briefly appended to the text in the 
words : 

Further, tvho paints a Jigure^ unless 

himself can be it, can not set it dotun. 

Wherefore no painter could set down any figure 
unless he had first in intention become such as 
the figure is to be. Further, [no] they can- it. 
not < take it away,' because they are remote from 
nobleness ; and, for the reason stated above, 
whatsoever modifies or destroys anything must 
needs be connected with it ; and therefore it 
adds : 

Nor is an upright tower made to lean 

by a river that flows far away, 

which means to utter naught else than a parallel 
to what was said before, namely, that riches 
cannot take away nobleness, speaking as though 


Riches this nobleness were an upright tower ni2oJ and 
remote ^g though riches were a river flowing far away 

6. Man is really a 'natural organised body ' endowed 
with 'rational life.' To define him as a 'trunk' 
endowed with ' life ' is wrong as to the trunk and imper- 
fect as to the life. 

1 8. As I shall prove belcnv. By implication in the 
definition of nobility. See chapters xvi. fF. 

20 (ii.) is taken up on p. 298. 

29. The first part (dealing with riches, (i.) in our nota- 
tion) K di'vided into tivo, the first of which (1°) deals 
with lines 41-48 of the ode; but since these lines refer 
not only to wealth (i.) but also to time (ii.), and even to 
'gracious manners,' some confusion is caused by treating 
them as a subsection of (i.). 

60-65. Compare Purgatorio, XVIII. 52-54. Also 
IV. 16: 103 ff. text and note. Observe that Aristotle 
(who likewise has the reputation of being a great logician 
and clerk) defines nobleness on the same — according to 
Dante erroneous — principle. See IV. 3 : 64, note. 


[That riches are (i.) base and (ii.) out of connection with 
nobility appears from their manifold imperfection 
(not in themselves as products of nature, but as 
private possessions) manifested in (1°) their accru- 
ing without equity, whether («'.) by pure chance, 
or by {it.) chance supported by law, or by {Hi.) 
honest or dishonest scheming backed by chance.] 

Baseness It now remains only to prove how riches are 

of riches base, and how they are disconnected and remote 

from nobleness ; and this is proved in two 

clauses of the text, to which attention must 

now be given ; and then when they have been 


expounded what I have said will be evident, to How 
wit that riches are base and remote from noble- Proved 
ness, and thereby the arguments against riches '• "•] 
urged above will be perfectly [lo] established. 
I say then : ^-l 

That they be base and imperfect is apparent. 

And to prove that which it is my purpose to 
express, be it known that the baseness of a 
thing flows from its imperfection and its noble- 
ness from its perfection, wherefore the more 
perfect a thing is the nobler is it in its nature, 
and the more imperfect the baser. And so if 
riches are imperfect it is clear [20'] that they 
are base. And that they are imperfect the text 
briefly proves when it says : 

For hoto much soever gathered, they 

can give no quiet, but multiply care. 

Wherein is manifest not only their imperfection, 

but also that their condition is most imperfect, 

and therefore that they are most base. And to 

this Lucan testifies when he says, addressing 

them : ' Without resistance did the laws perish ; 

but ye riches, [30J the basest part of things, 

stirred battle.' Briefly, their imperfection may 1°, 2°, 3°,] 

be seen clearly in three things : first, in their 

undiscerning advent ; secondly, in their perilous 

growth ; thirdly, in their hurtful possession. And 

before I prove this, a difliiculty that seems to 

rise must be explained ; for inasmuch as gold 

and gems have perfect \_\o~\ form and act in their 

own being, it seems untrue to say that they are 

imperfect. And therefore, be it known, that they 

themselves, in themselves considered, are perfect 


By their things — not riches, however, but gold and gems, 
advent But so far as they are designed for the possession 
of man they are riches, and in this sense they 
are full of imperfection ; for there is no incon- 
sistency in one and the same thing under different 
aspects being both perfect and [_$o'] imperfect. 
[i°. I say that their imperfection may be noted 
firstly in the want of discernment in their advent, 
wherein no distributive justice shines, but absolute 
iniquity almost always; which iniquity is the 
proper effect of imperfection. For if we consider 
the ways in which they come, all may be gathered 

[t. it. iii. into three fashions ; for either they came by pure 
[66^ fortune, as when without intention or hope 
they come by some unsought discovery ; or they 
come by fortune supported by Reason, as by 
testaments or by mutual succession ; or they 
come by fortune aiding reason, as in lawful or 
unlawful gains. By lawful I mean the earnings 
of art or trade or service ; by unlawful I mean 
theft or [703 plunder. And in each of these 
three modes that iniquity of which I speak may 
[i. be observed ; for hidden wealth which is dis- 
covered or rediscovered oftener presents itself 
to the bad than to the good ; and this is so 
obvious that it needs no proof. Indeed, I have 
seen the place on the ribs of a mountain in 
Tuscany, called Falterona, where the basest 
churl of the whole country side discovered, as 
he was digging, more than a [So] bushel of 
santelenas of finest silver, which had been waiting 
for him maybe a thousand years or more. And 
it was because he noted this want of equity that 
Aristotle declared that ' the more subject a man 
is to understanding the less subject he is to 


fortune.' And I affirm that inheritance by will in every 
or by succession oftener comes to the bad than sort 
to the good ; and of this I will not bring any "• 
evidence, but let each man turn his [_go'] eyes 
round his own neighbourhood and he will per- 
ceive — that of which I speak not, so as to 
cast no smirch on any. Would that it were 
God's pleasure that what the Provencal desired 
should come to pass, that ' whoso is not heir of 
the excellence should lose the inheritance of 
the possessions.' And I affirm that gain is m.] 
precisely that which comes oftener to the bad 
than to the good ; for illegitimate gains never 
come to the good at all, because they reject them. 
What good man []ioo]] will ever seek gain by 
force or by fraud ? It were impossible ; for by 
the very choice of the unlawful undertaking he 
would cease to be good. And lawful gains 
rarely come to the good, because, since much 
anxious care is needful thereto, and the anxious 
care of the good man is directed to weightier 
matters, rarely does the good man give sufficient 
attention thereto. Wherefore it is clear that in 
every way j^iio^ the advent of these riches is 
iniquitous, and therefore our Lord called them 
iniquitous when he said, ' Make to yourselves 
friends of the money of iniquity,' inviting and 
encouraging men to liberality in benefactions 
which are the begetters of friends. And how 
fair an exchange does he make who gives of 
these most imperfect things in order to have and 
to gain perfect things, such as are the hearts of 
worthy men! And this market is open [120] 
every day. Verily this merchandise is unlike 
others, for when the thought is to purchase one 


The true man by the benefaction, thousands are purchased 
market by it. And who has not Alexander in his 
heart even yet for his royal benefactions ? Who 
has not the good King of Castile in his heart, 
or Saladin, or the good Marquess of Monferrato, 
or the good Count of Toulouse, or Bertram de 
Born, or Galleazzo of Montefeltro, when 
mention [130^ is made of their donations? 
Truly not only those who would gladly do the 
like, but they who would sooner die than do it, 
love their memory. 

24. Tiao clauses of the text, namely lines 56-60 of the 

55. Iniquity, The proper translation would be inequity, 
but it seems necessary to adopt iniquity to lead up to the 
concluding passage. 

63, i?£aio« = law. 

64. By testament or by mutual succession. The Italian is 
per testamenti per tnutua sucessione. The meaning is ob- 
viously * by will or by intestate succession.' Compare 
line 87 of this chapter, where the Italian is /; retaggi 
legati e caduti. But mutua successio does not appear to be 
a term of Roman law. It is tempting to suggest muta, 
which would explain itself, though it is not a recognised 
term of law. 

86. Toynbee, in a note on this passage, shows (amongst 
other things) that the proper pronounciation is santelena, 
not santelena. The name seems to have been applied to 
the Byzantine coins, and then to coins in general. 

94 f. Compare Par^aforio, VII, 115-120. 

122. Toynbee has conclusively identified the King of 
Castile as Alfonso VIII., the son-in-law of our Henry 
II. (reigned 1158-1214 a.d.) ; the Count of Toulouse as 
Raymond V. (in power 1148-1194 a.d.); and the Count 
of Montferrat as Boniface II. (in power 1 192-1207 a.d.). 
As to the others, there never has been any doubt. Galeazzo 
of Montefeltro was a cousin of the more celebrated Guide 
(compare IV. 28 : 61, and Inferno, XXVII.), and was a 
man of note in his day. For Bertram de Born, see In- 
ferno, XXVIII. and De Vulgari Eloquentia, II. 2 : 79-85. 



[The baseness of riches further demonstrated by (2°) 
the insidious danger involved in their deceitful 
promises, and the craving that comes with their 
growth. A digression on the difference between 
the pernicious progress of him who goes astray 
in pursuit of wealth and the successive illusions by 
which he who is on the true path (no less than he 
who is on the wrong) ever supposes himself to be 
close upon the goal.] 

As has been said, the imperfection of riches Peril of 
may be observed not only in their undiscerning riches 
advent, but pre-eminently in their perilous 
growth ; and therefore the text makes mention 2°.] 
only of that wherein the defect may be most 
eagerly perceived, saying of them that ' how 
much soever gathered ' they not only give no 
rest but create more thirst, so as to make folk 
still more [loj defective and imperfect. And 
here be it known that defective things may harbour 
their defects in such fashion that they appear not at 
first sight, the imperfection hiding under a pretext 
of perfection ; or they may so harbour them as 
completely to reveal them, so that the imper- 
fection is recognised openly on the surface. And 
those things which at first conceal their defects 
[^20] are the most dangerous ; because, in many 
cases, we cannot be on our guard against them, 
as we see in the instance of a traitor who in 
appearance shows himself a friend, so that he 
begets in us a confidence in him, and beneath the 
pretext of friendship he hides the defect of 
enmity. And it is in this fashion that riches are 
dangerously imperfect in their growth ; for, sub- 


Insatiate mitting certain things to us which they promise, 
greed tj^gy actually bring the contrary. The [[303 false 
traitoresses ever promise to make him who gathers 
them full of satisfaction when they have been 
amassed up to a certain sum ; and with this 
promise they lead the human will to the vice of 
avarice. And this is why Boethius in that of 
Consolation calls them perilous, saying : ' Ah me, 
who was he who first dug out the weights of 
hidden gold, and the stones that sought to hide 
themselves, those precious perils ? ' The false 
traitresses [^40] promise (if it be well considered) 
to remove every thirst and every want and to bring 
satiety and sufficiency ; for this is what they do at 
first to every man, confidently fixing this promise 
at a certain measure of their growth ; and then, 
when they are amassed to that point, in place of 
satiety and of refreshment, they give and produce 
the thirst of a feverish bosom and not to be 
endured ; and in the place of sufficiency they 
offer a new limit, that is f 503 to say, a greater 
quantity to long for ; and together with it fear 
and great concern for what has already been 
acquired so that verily they ' give no quiet,' but 
' multiply care,' which, without them, was not 
there before. And therefore says Tully, in that 
of the Paradox denouncing riches : ' As to 
their money, and their splendid mansions, and 
their wealth, and their lordship, and the delights 
by which [60J they are chiefly attracted, never 
in truth have I ranked them amongst things 
good or desirable ; inasmuch as I saw for a 
certainty that in the abundance of these things 
men longed most for the very things wherein they 
abounded. For never is the thirst of cupidity 


filled nor sated. And not only are they tortured Misery 
by the longing to increase their possessions, but°^^.^. 
they are also tortured by fear [703 of losing *'*^^ ^ " 
them.' And all these words are Tully's, and 
so they stand in that book which has been 
mentioned. And for further witness to this im- 
perfection behold Boethius declaring in that of 
Consolation : ' Though the goddess of riches 
should bestow as much as the sand rolled by the 
wind-tossed sea, or as many as the stars that shine, 
the human race will not cease to wail.' And 
since it is fitting to gather yet more evidence to 
bring this to [_So'] proof, let us pass by all that 
Solomon and his father cried out against them, 
all that Seneca, especially in writing to Lucilius, 
all that Horace, all that Juvenal, and briefly all 
that every writer, every poet, and all that the 
truthful divine scripture cries out against these 
false harlots, full of all defects ; and that our 
faith may be drawn from our own eyes, let 
us give heed to the life of them who chase 
[[90] them, and see in what security they live 
when they have gathered of them, how content 
they are, how reposeful ! And what else, day 
by day, imperils and slays cities, countries and 
single persons so much as the new amassing of 
wealth by anyone ? Which amassing reveals 
new longings, the goal of which may not be 
reached without wrong to someone. And what 
else is the one and the other Reason, I mean 
the canonical and the civil, intended to cure so 
much as to make defence against the greed 
which grows as riches are amassed ? Verily the 
one [1003 and the other Reason manifests it 
sufficiently if we read their beginnings — I mean 


Love of the beginnings of their scripture. Oh how mani- 
all good fest, nay, rather how most manifest, is it that in 
their growth they are utterly imperfect, since 
nought save imperfection can spring from them 
when they are gathered []i lo] together ! And 
this it is that the text affirms. 

But here by way of difficulty arises a question 
which we must not omit to ask and to answer. 
Some caviller against the truth might say that if 
riches are imperfect and therefore base because, 
as they are acquired, the longing for them in- 
creases, by like reason knowledge should be 
imperfect and base, since in the acquiring of it 
the longing for it doth ever increase; [1203 
wherefore Seneca says : ' Had I one foot in 
the grave I should wish to learn.' But it is not 
true that knowledge is made base by imper- 
fection. Therefore, by the destruction of the 
consequent, the increase of longing does not pro- 
duce baseness in knowledge. That knowledge 
is perfect is manifest from the Philosopher in the 
sixth of the Ethics, who says that ♦ knowledge is 
a perfect account of things which are certain.' 
To this question a brief answer must be (^1303 
given, but first we must see whether in the 
acquisition of knowledge the longing for it does 
so* expand as is asserted in the question, and 
whether it is for a reason for which I assert that 
not only in the acquisition of knowledge and of 
wealth, but in every acquisition, human desire 
dilates, though in diffisrent ways ; which reason 
is this, that the supreme longing of everything, 
and that first given to it by nature, [140^ is to 
return to its first principle. And inasmuch as 
God is the first principle of our souls, and hath 


made them like to himself, even as it is written, ever 

'Let us make man in our image and after our growing 

likeness,' the soul itself most chiefly longs to 

return to him. And like a pilgrim who is 

travelling on a road where he hath never been 

before, who believes that every house which he 

sees from afar is the hostel, and finding that it is 

not directs his [^150] belief to another, and so 

from house to house until he comes to the hostel ; 

even so our soul, so soon as it enters upon the 

new and never-yet-made journey of life, directs 

its eyes to the goal of its supreme good, and 

therefore whatever it sees that appears to have 

some good in it, it thinks to be it. And because 

its knowledge is at first imperfect, through having 

no experience or instruction, little goods appear 

great to it; |3i6o3 and therefore it begins first 

from them in its longing. And so we see little 

children intensely longing for an apple, and then 

going on further, longing for a little bird, and 

then further on longing for fine clothes, and then 

a horse, and then a mistress, and then wealth, 

but not much, then much and then enormous. 

And this comes to pass because in none of these 

things does he find that for which he is ever 

searching, but believes he will find it further on. 

[^170] Wherefore we may perceive that one 

desirable thing stands in front of the other before 

the eyes of our soul, something after the fashion 

of a pyramid, wherein the smallest part first 

covers all the rest, and is as it were the apex of 

the supreme object of longing, which is God, as 

it were the base of all the rest. Wherefore, the 

further we proceed from the apex towards the 

base, the greater do objects of our longing 



The true appear ; and this is why [i8o] in the process 
P**^ *"*^ of acquisition the longings of men become more 
® ^ ^® capacious one after the other. 

But in truth we may lose this way in error, 
just as we may lose the paths of earth ; for even 
as from one city to another there must needs be 
a best and straightest way, and another which 
ever recedes therefrom, to wit the one which 
goes in the opposite direction, and many others, 
some departing less from it and some approach- 
ing it less : so in human life are divers paths, of 
which [^190] one is the truest and another the 
falsest, and certain less false and certain less true. 
And even as we see that the path which goeth 
straightest to the city fulfiUeth the longing and 
giveth rest after the toil, and that which goeth 
the contrary way never accomplisheth it, and 
may never give rest, so it cometh to pass in our 
life that he who taketh the right path reacheth 
the goal and hath rest, but he who goeth astray 
never reacheth it, but with great toil of [aooj 
his mind ever gazeth before him with greedy 
eyes. Wherefore, although this discourse doth 
not fully answer the question raised above, yet 
doth it at least clear the way for the answer, for it 
maketh us perceive that every longing of ours 
dilateth not after one same fashion ; but since 
this chapter is somewhat protracted the answer 
to the question must be given in a new chapter, 
wherein will be ended the whole disputation 
which [[2103 it is our present purpose to make 
against riches. 

42. This is ivhat they do. I.e., this promise they actually 
make at the outset. It does not mean that, for a time, 
they keep their promise. 


55. In the title of Cicero's work Paradcxa i^ a plural, 
but Dante seems to have read it as a singular. 

83. The manuscripts read Lucillus ; but the name of 
Seneca's correspondent was Lucilius, and the mistake is 
much more likely to be due to the copyist than to Dante. 

124 f. In such a proposition as ' If A is B then C is 
D,' ' A is B' is tailed the antecedent and ' C is D ' the 
consequent. If you can disprove the consequent the 
antecedent falls, and if you can prove the antecedent the 
consequent follows ; but not vice "versa. 

133 I.e., We are to inquire whether it is a fact; and, 
if it be a fact, whether it comes under a more general 
principle which applies to everything, and consequently 
furnishes no parallel to the special principle which applies 
specifically to wealth. 

140. See Paradiso, I. 103-141. . 

156. Compare Purgatorio, XVI. 85-93. 

169 Compare Par^<z/or/o, XIX. 103-114. 

210. Our present purpose. The whole of this outburst 
against wealth is merely incidental. The express treat- 
ment of the subject was to have come in the last treatise 
in connection with the great ode, * Doglia ml reca nello 
core ardire' Compare I. 8 ; 131. 



[Of the successive conquests and satisfactions in the 
pursuit of knowledge contrasted with the per- 
petual defeat and thirst in pursuit of wealth. 
How the complete satisfaction of the thirst for 
knowledge, within the limits prescribed by 
nature, is not impossible. Then (3°) of the hurt- 
fulness of clinging to the possession of wealth, 
(?.) because it makes men miserably anxious and 
the objects of hatred, and (it.) because it kills the 
excellence of liberality. The conclusion that 
wealth being base cannot give or take away 

In answer to the question I affirm that the Dilation 
desire of knowledge cannot be properly said to ?^<^ 
increase although, as has been declared, it dilates ^"crease 


Know- in a certain fashion. For that which properly 
ledge and speaking increases is always one ; the desire for 
wealth knowledge is not always one, but is many ; and 
when one ends another succeeds ; so that, 
properly speaking, its dilating is not an [^loj 
increasing but a succession of great things to 
small. For if I desire to know the elements of 
natural things, the moment I know them this 
desire is completed and ended ; and if I then 
desire to know what each of these elements is 
and how it exists, this is another new desire. 
Nor by the access of this am I bereft of the 
perfection to which the other led me ; [^20] 
and this dilating is not the cause of imperfection 
but of greater perfection. But that of riches is 
properly an increasing, for it is always one only, 
so that here we can detect no succession of 
goals reached and perfections realised. And if 
the adversary should say that as the desire to 
know the elements of natural things is one and 
the desire [^303 to know what they are is 
another, so the desire for a hundred marks is 
one and the desire for a thousand another, I 
answer that it is not true ; for a hundred is part 
of a thousand and is related to it as part of a 
line to the whole line along which we proceed 
by one sole motion, and there is no succession 
there, nor perfected motion in any part. But to 
know l^which arej the elements of natural things 
and to know what each of them (^403 is, are not 
parts one of the other, but are related as different 
lines along which you cannot proceed by one 
motion, but when the motion of one is complete 
the motion of the other succeeds. And thus it 
appears that knowledge is not (as laid down in 


the question) to be considered imperfect because Goal 
of the desire for knowledge, as riches are be- , ^'^°^'. 
cause of the desire for them ; for in the desire „n^tain- 
for knowledge desires are successively accora- able 
plished and [^5oJ brought to perfection, and in 
the desire for riches it is not so ; so that the 
question is solved and does not hold. 

It is true that the opponent may still cavil and 
say that although many desires are satisfied in 
the acquisition of knowledge yet we never 
accomplish the ultimate one, which is some- 
thing like the imperfection of a desire which, 
remaining one and the same, never comes to an 
end. Here again we answer that this counter 
assertion is not []6oJ true, namely, that the 
ultimate desire is never accomplished, for our 
natural desires, as shown above in the third 
treatise, go down to a certain limit ; and the 
desire of knowledge is a natural one, so that a 
certain limit satisfies it ; although few, because 
of the ill path they take, complete the journey. 
And he who understands the Commentator, in 
the third Of the Soul^ understands this from him ; 
and therefore Aristotle QyoJ in the tenth of the 
Ethics^ speaking against the poet Simonides, 
says : * That man should draw himself to divine 
things the most he may ' ; wherein he shows 
that our power contemplates a certain limit. 
And in the first of the Ethics he says : * That the 
disciplined man requires to know the certainty of 
things in the degree wherein their nature admits 
of certainty.' Wherein he shows that not only 
should a limit be contemplated on the side of the 
man who desires knowledge, but on the [_^o~\ 
side of the desired object of knowledge ; and 

294 '^d\ THE CONVIVIO Ch. 

The that is why Paul says that ' We are not to 
positive know more than is fitting to know, but to know 
riches ^" measure.' So that in whatever way the 
desire for knowledge is taken, whether in general 
or in particular, it reaches perfection ; and there- 
fore perfect knowledge has a noble perfection ; 
and its perfection is not lost by the desire for it 
as in the case of accursed riches. 
[3°, And how these be hurtful in their \_go~\ 
possession we are now briefly to show, for this 
is the third note of their imperfection. Their 
\i. it. possession may be seen to be hurtful by two 
reasons ; the one that it is the cause of evil, the 
other that it is the privation of good. It is the 
cause of evil because by mere watchfulness it 
\i. makes the possessor fearful and hateful. How 
great is the terror of him who knows that he 
has wealth about him, as he journeys and as he 
stays, not only waking but C^oo] sleeping, lest 
he lose not only his possessions but his life for 
his possessions' sake ! Well do the wretched 
merchants know it who traverse the world, 
whom the very leaves which the wind tosses 
make to tremble when they are carrying their 
riches with them ; and when they are without 
them, full of security, they shorten their way by 
song and discourse. And therefore the sage 
says : * Tf the wayfarer had entered on his journey 
empty he would sing in the face of the C^ i°3 
robbers.' And this is what Lucan means to say 
in the fifth book when he commends poverty 
for its security, saying : ♦ Oh secure ease of the 
poor life, oh ye narrow homes and huts, oh 
wealth of the gods not yet understood! To 
what temples and to what fortifications could 


this ever chance, not to know any tumult of fear and the 
when the hand of Caesar knocks ? ' And this negative 
Lucan says when he tells how Caesar ^1203 
came by night to the hut of the fisherman 
Amyclas, to cross the Adriatic Sea. And 
what hatred is that which everyone bears to 
the possessor of wealth, whether through envy 
or through desire to seize the possessions ! 
Verily it is so great that, many times counter 
to the tenderness he owes, the son schemes the 
father's death. And of this the Latins have 
most great and manifest examples both in the 
region of the Po [130] and in the region of the 
Tiber. And therefore Boethius in the second 
of his Consolation says : * Verily avarice makes 
men hated.' 

Also their possession is the negation of good, »V.] 
for, when they are possessed, liberality is not 
practised, which is a virtue, and virtue is a 
perfect good and makes men illustrious and 
loved ; which may not be achieved by possess- 
ing wealth, but by relinquishing the posses- 
sion of it. Wherefore Boethius in the same 
book says : (^140] ' Money is only good when, 
transferred to others by the practice of liberality, 
it is no longer possessed.' 

Wherefore the baseness of riches is manifest 
enough by reason of all their characteristics, and 
so a man of right appetite and of true knowledge 
never loves them ; and not loving them does not 
unite himself to them, but ever wishes them to be 
far removed from him, save as they be ordained 
to some necessary service. And this is ^5^3 
reasonable because the perfect can never unite 
with the imperfect. And so we see that the 


Their- curved line can never unite with the straight, 

remote- and if there be any union, it is not of line with 

ness from y^^^^ ^^^^ ^^ p^jj^^. ^^^.j^ point. And therefore it 

follows that the mind which is upright, to wit 
in appetite, and true, to wit in knowledge, is 
jaot undone by losing them, as the text lays 
down at the end of this section. And Ci6o[] 
by this effect the text purposes to prove that 
they are a running stream remote from the 
upright tower of reason, or of nobleness, and 
thereby that these riches cannot take away 
nobleness from him who has it. And this is 
the method of disputing and refuting pursued 
in the present ode against riches. 

I fF. The gist of Dante's argument is that though our 
thirst for knowledge increases as our horizon increases, 
yet it experiences a succession of satisfactions, not a 
sequence of thwarting disappointments; whereas the 
pursuit of wealth never leads to satisfaction at all. 
Compare ParadhoyW , 124 fF. and many other passages. 

12. If I want to know whether there is only one 
element (say fire) or many, then when I know that 
earth, water, fire and air are all elements, and that there 
are no more, I have got that piece of knowledge. And 
if I now go on to inquire what earth is, that is another 
thing. It is the difference between desiring to know 
' which are the elements ' and desiring to know ' what 
the elements are.' 

25. The syntax is (to me at least) perplexing ; but I 
think I have given the sense. 

63. See III. 15 : 69-110. 

68. The Commentator. That is Averroes (1126- 
1198 A.D.). Compare Inferno, IV. 144; Purgatorio, 
XXV. 61-66, etc. He was the last of the great Arabic 
commentators and was regarded (in Europe at least) as 
the chief ornament of the younger or Western school, 
as Avicenna (see II. 14 : 32, note) was of the older or 
Eastern school of Arabic Aristotelians. Averroes, like 
Thomas Aquinas in the succeeding century, composed 


his Aristotelian treatises in the form of regular commen- 
taries on the text of Aristotle's works. In the third 
book of his commentary on the De y^nima, in one of 
the great excursuses in which he develops his views, he 
maintains (amongst other things) that the intellect in 
man is capable of being so far assimilated to God that it, 
in a sense, knows (and indeed itself is) all existence ; that 
this involves a certain continuity of the concrete intellect 
of the individual man with the abstract and eternal intel- 
lect ; and that this continuity is to be realised by a study 
of the speculative sciences, from which, if they follow 
their true course, it will naturally flow, whereas if they 
take a wrong course such continuity will never be reached. 

72. In Ethics, X. vii : 8, Aristotle protests against 
all suadentes humana sapere hominem and mortalia mortaUm ; 
and himself urges man to make himself in quantum con- 
tingit immortalem, and omnia facer e ad ■vi'vere secundum 
optimum eorum quae in ipso. Dante may have learned that 
Simonides was aimed at from the comments of Aquinas, 
here and elsewhere ; or possibly direct from Metaphysics, 
I. ii : 12, where Simonides is named and is said to base 
his contention on the supposed jealousy of the gods. 

108. The sage, in this case, is Juvenal (^Sat. X. 22). 
Dante habitually calls poets sages, as in the celebrated 
passage in the Vita Nuo-va, Sonnet X. line 2 (§ 20 : 14.) 

160. By this effect. I.e., by observing that their effect 
on the noble mind is nil. 


[(ii.) How they who say that the lapse of time is 
requisite to create nobility, themselves (1°) add the 
condition that neither a churl nor a churl's son 
can become noble, which destroys their own con- 
tention ; and how four absurdities would follow 
should they seek to remove this contradiction. ] 

The error of others having been refuted in that Irrele- 
part wherein it rests upon wealth ... in that vance of 
part wherein it asserted time to be a cause of ^°^® 


Churl and nobleness, saying ' of ancient wealth ' ; and this 
gentle refutation is conducted in that part which begins : 

ii. Nor will they have it that a base man can 

become gentle. 

1°, 2°. And first this is refuted by an argument of the 
very ones who are in [^loj this error; then, 
for their greater confusion, this argument of 
theirs is itself also refuted, and this is done 
when it says : 

Further i it follonueth from ivhat I have 
above set dotvn. 

Finally, the conclusion is reached that their 
error is manifest, and therefore it is time to turn 
to the truth, and this is done where it says : 

Wherefore to sound intellects, and the rest. 

i°- I say then : 

Nor ivill they have it that a base man can 
become gentle, 

and here be it known that \_'2-o~\ it is the 
opinion of the erring ones that a man once a 
churl may never be called gentle ; and a man 
who is son of a churl, in like manner may 
never be called gentle. And this shatters their 
own doctrine when they imply that time is 
required for nobleness, by inserting that word 
' ancient ' ; for it is impossible in the process 
of time to come to the moment that begets 
nobleness, according to this their argument (that 
has been rehearsed), [30] which precludes a 
: churl from being ever able to become gentle for 

ought that he may do or by any accident, and 


precludes the passage from a churl father to a The 
gentle son ; for if the son of a churl is only a transition 
churl, then his son again is only the son of a 
churl, and therefore his son too is a churl ; and 
so we shall never at all be able to find the point 
at which nobility begins by process of time. 
And if the adversary, bent on [403 making 
some defence, should say that nobility begins 
at the point of time when the base state of the 
ancestors is forgotten, I say that that is counter 
to them themselves ; for of sheer necessity there 
would at that point be a transition from churlish- 
ness to gentleness, either of the same man from 
one into the other, or between father and son, 
which is contrary to what they lay down. 

And if the adversary were stubbornly to 
defend his case by saying that they admit [50^ 
that this change can take place when the base 
estate of the ancestors has fallen into oblivion, 
although the text takes no heed of this, it is 
right that the gloss should answer it. And 
therefore I answer thus, that from that conten- 
tion of theirs follow four extreme absurdities, i. U. Hi. iv. 
so that the argument cannot be good. 

The first is that the better human nature i. 
became the [60]] harder and the slower would 
the generating of gentleness be, which is the 
greatest absurdity, inasmuch as a thing is the 
more mindful in proportion as it is better, and is 
a greater cause of good; and nobleness is counted 
amongst things that are good. And that this 
would be so is thus proved : If gentleness or 
nobleness (by which I mean one and the same 
thing) were generated by oblivion, nobleness 
would be the sooner generated in proportion as 


Absurd men were more [[70] forgetful, for thereby all 
results forgetfulness would come the quicker. There- 
fore the more forgetful men were the sooner 
would men become noble ; and counterwise, the 
better memory they had the more slowly would 
they be ennobled. 
ii- The second is that this distinction between 
noble and base could not be made with respect 
to anything except men, which is highly absurd, 
inasmuch as [^8oJ we recognise in every kind of 
thing the features of nobleness or baseness, so 
that we often speak of a noble horse and a base 
one, and a noble falcon and a base one, and a 
noble pearl and a base one. And that this 
distinction could not be made is thus proved : 
If oblivion of base ancestors is the cause of 
nobleness, then in cases where there has never 
been any baseness of ancestors there cannot be 
any oblivion of them [90] (inasmuch as oblivion 
is the perishing of memory), so that in these 
aforesaid animals other than man, and plants 
and minerals, baseness and loftiness cannot be 
traced, since their nature holds them to one 
only and equal state, and in their generation 
there can be no nobleness and so neither any 
baseness ; inasmuch as these two are to be 
regarded as habit and privation, which are 
possibilities of one identical subject, and there- 
fore in these things there can be j^iooj no 
distinction between one and the other. And if 
the adversary should choose to say that in other 
things nobleness means the excellence of the 
thing, but in men it means that the memory of 
their base condition has perished, one would 
wish to answer not with words but with a 


dagger to such a stupidity as it would be to of a 
assign excellence as the cause of nobleness in desperate 
other things, and oblivion as its principle in the ^?°^®°" 
case of Clio] rnen. 

The third is that the thing generated would "V. 
often come before the thing generating, which 
is utterly impossible ; and this may be shown 
as follows : Let us suppose that Gherardo da 
Cammino had been the grandson of the basest 
churl that ever drank of the Sile or the Cagnano, 
and that oblivion of his grandfather had not yet 
come about ; who should dare to say that 
Gherardo da Cammino would have been a base 
[^1203 man? And who would not agree with 
me and say that he was noble ? Of a surety 
no one, howsoever presumptuous he might be ; 
for noble he was, and so will his memory be for 
ever. And if oblivion of his base ancestor had 
not come about (as is urged in the objection), 
and he had been great in nobility, and his noble- 
ness had been thus openly perceived, as openly 
perceived it is, it would have existed in him 
before that which generated it had come about. 
And this C1303 is supremely impossible. 

The fourth is that a man should be held ^^* 
noble when dead who was not noble when alive, 
than which there can be no greater absurdity ; 
and that this would follow is shown thus : 
Let us suppose that in the age of Dardanus the 
memory of his base ancestors survived, and let 
us suppose that in the age of Laomedon this 
memory had perished and oblivion had taken 
its place. According to the opinion we are 
attacking, [^140] Laomedon was gentle and 
Dardanus was a churl when they were alive. 


A We, to whom the the memory of their ancestors 
dilemma (I mean beyond Dardanus) has not come down, 
are we to say that Dardanus was a churl when 
he was alive and is noble now that he is dead ? 
And the report that Dardanus was the son of 
Jove is nothing counter to this, for it is a fable 
to which, in a philosophical discussion, we 
should give no heed. And, at any rate, if the 
adversary [150]] should choose to take his 
stand on the fable, verily, that which the fable 
veils destroys all his arguments. And thus it 
is manifest that the argument which laid down 
oblivion as the cause of nobleness is false and 

7. (ii.) See p, 276. 

62, 70, 72. I think a careful study of the passage can 
leave little doubt that Dante means by memorata ' having 
a good memory,' and by smemoratt 'having bad memories.' 
It would of course be more natural, on the face of it, to 
translate the words respectively 'held in memory' and 

97. Neither nobility nor baseness has any meaning, 
except as applied to a subject capable of the habit or dis- 
position in question, and therefore capable of the ' priva- 
tion ' of it. Compare II. 14: \\o^note. 

107. Compare II. 9 : 56, note. 

114. Gherardo. See Purgatorio,'K.y^I. i2^,And note. His 
death took place in 1306 (Toyn bee), see Appendix, p. 421. 

151. The insinuation is that if we are to lay stress on 
the legend we should conclude that Dardanus was base 
born and his parentage unknown. Compare Paradiso, 
VIII. 131 f. 



[But (2°) this contention of theirs is itself absurd. For 
it would imply either (*.)that there is no distinc- 
tion between noble and churl, or («.) that men 

" have not all a common origin. And both of 

*!■ these are false. Wherefore the opinions of the 
emperor and of the common herd are alike 
refuted, save to such whose minds suffer from 
some one of three great sicknesses of soul, or are 

^^ distraught by some defect or derangement of 
body reacting upon the mind.] 

When the ode has disproved, on their own Re- 
teaching, that time is demanded for nobleness, futation 
it straightway goes on to confound their afore- ^J.^*". 
said teaching itself, so that no rust may be left 
by their false arguments upon the mind which is 
disposed to the truth ; and this it does when it 2°. 
says : 

Further it follonveth from what 7 have 
above set doivn. 

\_\o~\ And here be it known that if a man 
cannot become gentle from a churl, and neither 
can a gentle son be born from a base father (as 
was laid down above in their opinion), one of 
two absurdities must follow : the one is that i. it. 
there is no nobleness ; the other is that there 
have always been a multiplicity of men in the 
world, so that the human race is not descended 
from one single man. And this can be demon- 
strated. If nobleness is not {jzo"] begotten i. 
anew (and it has been said above repeatedly that 
their opinion involves this, because it allows not 
its derivation from a base man to himself, nor 


The from a base father to his son), a man is always 
origin such as he is born ; and he is born such as his 
father ; and so this transmission of one single 
condition has come down from the first parent ; 
wherefore such as was the first generator, to wit, 
Adam, such must the whole human generation 
needs be, for [30]] from him to the moderns there 
is no room to find any change according to this 
argument. Wherefore, if Adam himself was 
noble, we are all noble, and if he was base, we 
are all base, which is no other than to take 
away the distinction between these conditions, 
and so to take away the conditions themselves. 
And this is what the words 

T/?at 'we be all gentle or else simple 

declare must follow from what has gone before. 
». And if this be not true, then of sheer necessity 
some folk must be reckoned [40J noble and some 
reckoned base; and since the change from baseness 
to nobleness is ruled out, it follows that the human 
race is descended from divers origins, that is to 
say from one noble origin and from one base ; 
and this is what the ode declares when it says : 

Or that man had not an origin, 

that is to say one sole origin (for it does not say 
* origins ^^ ; and this is most false according to 
the Philosopher, according to our faith which 
may not []5oJ lie, according to the religion and 
ancient belief of the Gentiles ; for although 
the Philosopher does not lay down the succes- 
sion from one first man, yet he will have it that 
there is one only essence in all men, the which 
divers origins could not produce. And Plato 


has it that all men depend on one only ' idea ' and Its unity 
not on several, which is giving one sole origin to 
them. And without doubt Aristotle would 
laugh aloud if he heard folk making two [60] 
species of the human race, like that of horses 
and of asses ; for (with apologies to Aristotle) 
those who so think might at anyrate be con- 
sidered the asses. That, judged by our faith 
(which is to be preserved absolutely), it would 
be most false, is clear from Solomon, who, when 
he makes a distinction between all mankind and 
the brute animals, calls all the former sons of 
Adam ; and this he does when he says : ' Who 
knows whether the spirits of the sons [^yo]] of 
Adam go up and those of the beasts go down ? ' 
And that it was false according to the Gentiles, 
behold the witness of Ovid in the first of his 
Metamorphoses^ where he treats of the constitu- 
tion of the world, according to the pagan belief, 
or that of the Gentiles, saying : * Man was born 
(he does not say men) ; man was born ; whether 
the artificer of things made him of divine seed, 
or whether the new-made earth, but [80] lately 
darted from the noble ether, retained the seeds 
of the kindred heaven which, mingled with the 
water of the stream, the son of lapetus (that is 
Prometheus) composed in the likeness of the 
gods who govern all.' Where he manifestly 
lays it down that the first man was only one ; 
and therefore the ode says : 

But tk'ts I grant not; 

that is that man had not an origin. And the 
ode adds : 

Neither do they if they [90] be Christians. 


Sound It says * Christians ' and not ' Philosophers ' or 

intellects < Gentiles,' though their opinions too are against 

them ; because the Christian doctrine is of 

greater vigour and crushes all cavil, thanks to 

the supreme light of heaven which illuminates it. 

Then when I say : 

Wherefore to sound intellects 'its manifest 

that nvhat they say is vain, 

I draw the conclusion Lhat their error is con- 
founded ; [lOo] and I say that it is time for 
eyes to be opened to the truth. And this I tell 
when I say : 

And now I ivould declare how I regard it. 

I affirm, then, that it is plain to ' sound intellects ' 
by what has been said, that these utterances of 
theirs are vain, that is to say without the marrow 
of truth. And I say ' sound ' not without cause. 
Wherefore be it known that our intellect may 
be spoken of as sound or sick ; and I mean by 
' intellect' the noble part of our \\ lO^ soul which 
may be indicated by the common term * mind.' 
Sound it may be called when not impeded in its 
activity by ill either of mind or of body ; which 
activity consists in knowing what things are, as 
Aristotle says in the third Of the Soul, 

For, as to sickness of soul, I have perceived 
three terrible maladies in the mind of man. One 
is caused by boastfulness of [^1203 nature, for 
many are so presumptuous that they suppose 
themselves to know everything ; and therefore 
they affirm uncertain things as certain ; the 
which vice Tully chiefly denounces in the first 
of the Offices, and Thomas in his Against the 


Gentiles, where he says : * Many are so pre- and sick 
sumptuous in character as to believe they can 
measure all things with their intellect, considering 
everything true that approves itself to them, and 
everything false [1303 which does not.' And 
hence it is that they never come at learning, 
believing that they are learned enough of them- 
selves ; they never ask questions, they never 
listen, but desire that questions should be asked 
of them, and before the question is well out they 
give a wrong answer. And of these Solomon 
says in the Proverbs: 'Hast thou seen a man 
swift to answer ? From him folly rather than 
correction is to be looked for.' The second is 
caused by [^1403 abjectness of nature, for there 
are many so obstinate in their abasement that 
they cannot believe that anything can be known 
either by themselves or by any other ; and such 
never search or argue for themselves, nor care at 
all what any other says. And against them 
Aristotle discourses in the first of the Ethics, 
saying * That they are incompetent students of 
moral philosophy.' Ever like beasts do such 
[^1503 live in grossness, without hope of any 
instruction. The third is caused by frivolity of 
nature, for there are many of such frivolous 
fancy that they dash about whenever they argue, 
reaching their conclusion before they have 
formed their syllogism, and flying from this 
conclusion to another, and fancying all the time 
that they are arguing most subtly. And they 
start from no axioms and never really see any 
one thing truly in their imagination. And of 
[^1603 them the Philosopher says that we should 
take no heed nor have aught to do with them, 


Souls saying in the first of the Physics that with him 

sick ^ho denies the axioms it is not meet to dis- 

th '^h^H P"^^* ^'^'^ amongst such are many unlettered 

who would not know their ABC, and would 

fain discuss geometry, astrology and physics. 

And by reason of sickness or defect of body 
the mind may be unsound, [^lyoj sometimes by 
defect of some principle from birth, as in the 
case of idiots ; sometimes by disturbance of the 
brain, as in the case of maniacs. And it is this 
malady of mind that the law contemplates when 
the Infortiatum says : ' In him who makes a 
testament, soundness of mind, not of body, is 
required at the time in which the testament is 
made.' Wherefore it is to those intellects which 
are not sick [i8o] by malady of mind or body, 
but are free and unencumbered and sound with 
reference to the light of truth, that I say it is 
manifest that the opinion just spoken of is vain 
and without worth. 

Then it adds that I thus pronounce them 
false and vain and thus refute them ; and this it 
does when it says : 

u4nd thus do I refute the same as false. 

And afterwards I say that we are to proceed to 
demonstrate the truth, and I say that we are to 
demonstrate this, to wit what gentlehood [190^ 
is, and how a man in whom it exists may be 
recognised ; and I say this here : 

And noiv 1 would declare how I regard it. 

117-183. With this whole passage compare I. 11. 
175. 'The Digestum Vetus extends from the beginning 


to the end of Lib. XXIV. tit. ii., the Infartiatum thence 
to the end of Lib. XXXVIII, tit. iii., the rest of the 
Pandects being the Dlgestum No-vum^ (Rashdall). The 
derivation of the term Infortiatum is not known. 


[(b) Proceeding now to the positive part of his task 
the author promises (a) to show us the nature of 
nobleness, and (/3) to enumerate its tokens ; and 
under (a) he will (i.) clear the ground by (l°) 
examining the use and derivation of the word 
' noble,' and by (2°) determining the method by 
which we must seek to define it, and then (ii.) 
will attempt the definition itself.] 

* The king shall rejoice in God, and all those Rejoicing 
who swear by him shall be praised, because the ^^ "^ 
mouth is shut of those who speak unjust things.' ^^ 
These words I may verily here set forth, be- 
cause every true king ought supremely to love 
the truth. Wherefore it is written in the book 
of fVisdom : * Love the light of wisdom, ye who 
are before the [^lo] peoples' ; and the light of 
wisdom is truth itself. I say, then, that every 
king shall rejoice because that most false and 
pernicious opinion of mischievous and erring 
men, which they have hitherto unrighteously 
spoken concerning nobleness, has been refuted. 

It is fitting to proceed to treat of the truth d. 
according to the division made above in the 
third chapter of the present treatise. This 
second part, then, which []2o3 begins : 

/ affirm that every virtue in principle^ 

purposes to determine about nobleness itself 


Noble- according to the truth. And this part is divided 

ness IS into two ; for in the first the intention is to show 

perlecuon ^j^^j. (.jjjg nobleness is, and in the second how he 

"' "■ in whom it resides may be recognised. And 

this second part begins : 

The soul tvh'ich this excellence adorns. 

a. The first part has again two parts, for in the 
i, ii. first certain things are investigated which Q30]] 
are necessary for the comprehension of the 
definition of nobleness. In the second the 
definition itself is sought ; and this second part 
begins : 

Gentlehood is <wherever there is virtue. 

j. To penetrate completely into the treatment 
1°, 2?. we must first perceive two things : The one, 
- what is understood by this word nobleness, 
simply considered without qualification ; the 
other is, by what road we are to travel to find 
1°. the above-named definition. I say, then, [^40]] 
that if we would have regard to the common 
custom of speech, this word * nobleness ' means 
the perfection in each thing of its proper nature. 
Wherefore it is not only predicated of man, but 
of all other things as well ; for a man calls a 
stone noble, a plant noble, a horse noble, a falcon 
noble, whenever it appears perfect in its own 
nature. And therefore Solomon says in Ecclesi- 
astes : ' Blessed [[503 the land whose king is 
noble,' which is to say no other than ' whose 
king is perfect according to the perfection of 
mind and of body.' And this he clearly 
shows by what he says before, when he says : 
' Woe unto thee, O land, whose king is a child,' 


that is to say, not a perfect man ; and a man is Deriva- 
not a child simply in virtue of age, but in virtue ^°^ o* 
of disorderly ways and defect of life, as the ® ^°^ 
Philosopher instructs us in the first of the Ethics. 
It is true that \(>o\ there are foolish ones who 
believe that by this word * noble ' is meant 
' named and known by many,' and they say that 
it comes from a verb which means * to know,' 
to wit nosco. And this is most false ; for if 
this were so, those things which were most 
named and known in their kind would be 
noblest in their kind ; and so the obelisk of St. 
Peter would be the most noble stone in the 
world ; and [yoj Asdente the cobbler of 
Parma would be nobler than any of his fellow- 
citizens ; and Alboino della Scala would be more 
noble than Guido da Castello of Reggio ; 
whereas every one of these things is most false. 
And therefore it is most false that noble comes 
from knowing ; but it comes from not vile, 
wherefore 'noble' is as much as * not vile.' 
This perfection is what the Philosopher himself 
means in the seventh of the Physics when he 
says : * Everything is most [Soj perfect when 
it touches and reaches its own proper virtue ; 
and it is then most perfect according to its 
nature. Wherefore the circle may be called 
perfect when it is really a circle ; ' that is to 
say, when it attains to its own proper virtue, 
then it exists in its full nature, and then it may 
be called a noble circle. And this is when 
there is a point in it which is equally distant 
from the circumference. That circle [90] which 
has the figure of an egg loses its virtue and is not 
noble ; nor is that which has the figure of an 


Mode of almost full moon, because its nature is not perfect 
definition [^ it. And so it may be plainly seen that in 
general this word, to wit * nobleness,' expresses 
in all things the perfection of their nature. And 
this is the first thing we were in search of, the 
better to enter into the treatment of the section 
2°. which we are about to expound. Secondly, 
[lOo] we were to see how we are to travel in 
order to discover the definition of human noble- 
ness, which is the scope of the present process. 
I say, then, that inasmuch as in those things 
which are of one species, as are all men, we 
cannot define their best perfection by essential 
principles, we must define and know it by the 
effects they manifest ; and so we read in the 
Gospel of [i lo] St. Matthew when Christ says : 
* Beware of false prophets ; by their fruits ye 
shall know them.' So the straight path leads 
us to look for this definition (which we are search- 
ing for) by way of the fruits ; which are moral 
and intellectual virtues whereof this our nobleness 
is the seed, as shall be fully shown in the defini- 
tion thereof. And these are the two things 
which it behoved us to perceive before [120] 
proceeding to the rest, as said above in this 

16. (/^)See p. 238. 

68. Brought from Egypt in the reign of Caligula, and 
placed in the Circus of Nero ; on the foundations of which 
the old St. Peter's was built, under Constantine. The 
obelisk was removed to the neighbouring site it now 
occupies in 1586 by Sixtus V. (Murray.) 

69. On the fate of Asdente, no longer famous, see 
Inferno, XX, 118-120. Alboino della Scala, the brother 
of Dante's subsequent friend and patron, Can Grande, 
was lord of Verona from 1 304 to 1 3 1 1 . Dante may have 


met him and conceived his contempt for him in the court 
of his brother Bartolomeo. Compare Paradiso, XVII. 
70-72. Guido da Castello is coupled with Gherardo da 
Cammino in Purgatorio, XVI. 124-126. 

76. I have generally translated -vile ' base,' but here 
the play upon the word (such as it is) requires ' vile.' 

106. An essential principle, that makes a thing what 
it is, being common to all things of the same kind, cannot 
serve to define the distinguishing excellences of the better 
individualsof that kind. Compare IV. 10 : 54-65, where 
a somewhat different reason for defining by effects is 

108. The effects which 'they,' the indiyiduaU, 


[(ii.) Approaching his definition, the author (1°), by 
way of preliminary discussion, insists (t.) that all 
virtues have one common principle — that of being 
the mean between two opposing vices ; and («.) 
that the present definition and investigation are 
limited to the moral virtues, which concern the 
active life ; reason being shewn why the intel- 
lectual virtues and the contemplative life are not 
considered here.] 

Now when these two things are understood which The root 
it seemed advantageous to understand before pro- 0^ virtues 
ceeding with the text, we are to go on to ex- "• 
pound the text itself. It says, then, and begins : i°» 2°- 

I affirm that every "Virtue in principle comet h 

from one root^ I mean virtue that maketh 

man blessed in his doing ; 

and it adds : 

This is (according as the Ethics say) a 

selective habity 


The [lo] setting forth the whole definition of moral 

moral virtue according as it is defined in the second of 

the Ethics by the Philosopher ; and the chief stress 

' • of this is on two things : the one is that every 

/. It. virtue comes from one principle ; the other is 

that this ' every virtue ' means the moral virtues 

which are our subject ; and this is manifest when 

it says : 

That is {according as the Ethics say). 

Where be it known that our most proper fruits 
are the moral [^20^ virtues, because in every 
direction they are in our power. And they have 
been distinguished and enumerated diversely by 
divers philosophers, but inasmuch as wherever 
the divine opinion of Aristotle has opened its 
mouth, methinks that every other's opinion may 
be dropped, purposing to declare what they are 
I will briefly pass through them in discourse 
according to his opinion. These are the eleven 
virtues named by the said philosopher. 

[]3oJ The first is called courage, which is 
weapon and rein to control rashness and timidity 
in things which bring destruction to our life. 

The second is temperance, which is rule and 
rein to our gluttony and our excessive abstinence 
in things which preserve our life. 

The third is liberality, which is the moderator 
of our giving and of our [40] taking of temporal 

The fourth is munificence, which is the 
moderator of great expenditures, making the 
same and arresting them at a certain limit. 

The fifth is consciousness of greatness, 


which is moderator and acquirer of great honours Virtues 
and fame, and vices 

The sixth is proper pride, which moderates 
and regulates us as to the honours of this world. 

[50] Tlie seventh is serenity, which moderates 
our wrath and our excessive patience in the face 
of external evils. 

The eighth is affability, which makes us 
pleasant in company. 

The ninth is called frankness, which moderates 
us in speech from vaunting ourselves beyond 
what we are, or depreciating ourselves beyond 
what we are. 

The tenth is called eutrapelia, which [60] 
moderates us in sports, causing us to ply them in 
due measure. 

The eleventh is justice, which disposes us to 
love and to do righteousness in all things. 

And each of these virtues has two collateral 
foes, namely vices, the one in excess and the 
other in defect. And they themselves are the 
means between them ; and they all spring from 
one principle, to wit from the habit of our right 
[^703 selection. Wherefore it may be said 
generally of all of them that they are an 
'elective habit consisting in the mean.' And 
these are they which make a man blessed or 
happy in their operation, as saith the Philosopher 
in the first of the Ethics, when he defines felicity, 
saying that ' felicity is action in accordance with 
virtue in a perfect life.' It is true that prudence, 
or sense, is set down by many as a moral virtue ; 
but Aristotle [SoJ enumerates her amongst the 
intellectual virtues, although she is the guide of 
the moral virtues and shows the way whereby 


The they are combined, and without her they may 
active life not be. 

^^ , But, be it known, in this life we may have 

plative '-^° felicities, according to the two diverse paths, 
the good and the best, which lead us thereto ; 
the one is the active life, and the other the con- 
templative. Which [90J latter (although by 
the active life we arrive, as was said, at a good 
felicity) leads us to the best felicity and blessed- 
ness, as the Philosopher proves in the tenth of 
the Ethics, And Christ affirms it with his 
mouth in the Gospel of Luke, speaking to 
Martha, and answering her : ' Martha, Martha, 
thou art anxious and dost trouble thyself about 
many things ; verily one only thing is needful ; ' 
that is to say, the thing which thou art doing. 
And he [100] adds: 'Mary hath chosen the 
best part, which shall not be taken from her.' 
And Mary, as is written before these words of 
the Gospel, sitting at the feet of Christ, showed 
no concern for the ministry of the house, but 
hearkened only to the words of the Saviour. 
For if we would expound this morally, our Lord 
meant therein to show that the contemplative 
life was the best, although the active [no] life 
was good. This is manifest to whoso will apply 
his mind to the Gospel words. But some might 
say, arguing against me : Inasmuch as the felicity 
of the contemplative life is more excellent than 
that of the active, and the one and the other may 
be and is the fruit and end of nobility, why not 
proceed rather by way of the intellectual than by 
way of the moral virtues ? To this it may be 
answered briefly that [i30] in every discipline 
heed should be given to the capacity of the 


learner, and he should be led by that path which The 
is easiest to him. Wherefore, inasmuch as the n^oral 
moral virtues seem to be and are more common ^^ "^^ 
and better known and more sought after than the 
other virtues, and more closely knit with outward 
manifestation, it was expedient and suitable to 
proceed by this path rather than by the other ; 
for we should arrive equally well at a knowledge 
of bees by investigating the product of [130^ 
wax as the product of honey, though the one 
and the other proceed from them. 

The division 1°, 2°, is implied at the openine; of Chapter 

20. In e-very direction. Compare IV. 9 : 65-75. 

41-47. Magnifcen'sa ( = ' munificence,') is liberality on a 
large scale. Magnanimita (Compare I. 11 : 126-144) is 
a sense of superiority in a man who really is superior. 
Amati'va li'onore is the desire for adequate success, honour 
and recognition on the part of a man who has not, and 
does not think he has, marked greatness. Thus the rela- 
tion of magnanimita to amativa d'onore is identical with 
that of magnificen%a to liberalita. 

59. Eutrapelia is ease and pleasantness in social inter- 
course and conversation. Thomas Aquinas gives an 
amusing description of the man who is always swooping, 
like a rapacious bird, on every remark, to make it the 
pretext for a pun, or the like. This is one of the vicious 
extremes. Haughty or morose aloofness is the other. 

83. Combined. /.«., the proportions in which the oppos- 
ing qualities, either of which in excess is a vice, are to be 
combined in order to produce virtue. 

99. Dr Moore has shown that Augustine, like Dante, 
regarded Martha as receiving the qualified praise, rather 
than the rebuke, of Jesus. But the very curious inter- 
pretation of the 'one thing needful' as referring to her 
and not to Mary seems to be peculiar to Dante. 

129. Though honey, which is what we think oi par 
excellence as the product of the bees, yet there is no reason 
why we should not investigate them through the product 


of wax (which, by the way, was of far higher importance 
in the middle ages than it is now) should it be more con- 
venient to do so; and so we may investigate nobleness 
by means of the moral virtues, although the intellectual, 
which are more excellent, also proceed from it. See the 
first note on Chapter XXII. of this treatise. 


[Having spoken of the moral virtues the author pro- 
ceeds (iii.) to show that they have the character- 
istic of being praiseworthy in common with 
nobleness, which indicates some connection 
between the two ; and, nobleness being the more 
comprehensive term, it seems reasonable to sup- 
pose (though it is not yet proved) that the moral 
virtues are derived from nobleness, rather than 
they and it from some common source.] 

Cause The preceding chapter brings us to define how 

and effect every moral virtue rises out of one principle, 

that is to say a right and habitual selection ; 

and that is what the present text implies up to 

that part which begins: 

I affirm that nobility in its constituent essence. 

iii. In this part, then, we proceed, by way of prob- 
able inference, to learn that every virtue named 
above, taken severally [[loj or generally, pro- 
ceeds from nobility, as effect from cause. And 
this is supported by a philosophical proposition 
which declares that when two things are found 
to agree in anything they must both be re- 
duced to some third thing, or one of them 
reduced to the other, as effect to cause ; be- 
cause one characteristic, primarily and essentially 
possessed, can only pertain to one thing, and if 


these two were not both the effect of some third, Virtue 
[203 nor one the effect of the other, then both derived 
of them would possess this characteristic primarily °^ 
and essentially, which is impossible. It says, 
then, that nobility and virtue (such as we are 
discussing, namely moral virtue) agree in this, 
that the one and the other implies praise in him 
of whom it is asserted, and this when it says : 

Wherefore in one same implication the ttvo 

agree, being to one effect ; 

that is to say, the ascription of them to anyone 
implies praise of him and the belief that he is 

And then it draws the conclusion, on the 
strength [[30]] of the above-noted proposition, 
and says that the one must needs proceed from 
the other, or both from a third ; and adds that 
it is rather to be presumed that one comes from 
the other than that both come from a third, if it 
appears that the one implies as much as the other, 
and more yet ; and this is what this line affirms : 

But if one signifies all that the other signifies, 

where you are to know that at this point the 
argument does not proceed by necessary demon- 
stration (as though we should [403 say : ' If it 
is cold that begets water, and if we see the 
clouds,' etc.), but expresses a fair and fitting in- 
duction ; for if there are in us sundry things 
worthy of praise, and if there also is in us the 
principle whence praise of us f]ows, it is reason- 
able to reduce the former to the latter. And 
it is more reasonable to regard that which em- 
braces several things as their principle than to 


The regard them as its principle. For the stem of the 
prepara- (-ree, which embraces all the other limbs, should 
complete CS'^D ^^ called the principle and cause of them, 
and not they of it. And thus nobleness, which 
comprehends every virtue (as cause comprehends 
effect), and many other praiseworthy activities of 
ours as well, ought so to be so regarded as that 
virtue should be reduced to it, rather than to some 
third thing that may be in us. 

Finally, it says that what has now been ex- 
pressed (to wit that every moral virtue comes 
from [^60] one root, and moral virtue as above 
declared, agrees in one thing with nobility, so 
that the one must be reduced to the other or 
both to a third, and that if the one means all 
that which the other does and more, the latter 
proceeds from the former rather than from some 
other third) is all to be presupposed ; that is to 
say, is ordered and prepared for what is further 
in view. And so ends this verse and this [^703 
present section. 

8. Dante appears here to use the word probabile in 
contradistinction to demonstrati'va. 

17. Primarily and essentially, i.e., not incidentally. 
The idea is that all things which are praiseworthy 
essentially, and not owing to some incidental circum- 
stance or condition, must have in them the common 
principle (whatever it may be) from which praise springs. 

An illustration may explain the distinction between 
having a characteristic primarily and secondarily. 
'Movement through space' being characteristic of 
' body,' nothing which moves through space primarily 
can be other than corporeal. Now, the soul or life 
becomes incidentally, and in a secondary sense, capable 
of being moved through space, by its union with the body, 
but it is not therefore corporeal ; for it does not possess 
the capacity for movement through space primarily and 


40. The text leaves the phrase incomplete. *If it is 
cold that begets moisture, and we see clouds in the air, 
we know that the air in that region is cold.' The present 
argument is not of this conclusive nature. 

45. The argument is : Seeing that the principle of 
praiseworthiness must be something in ourselves, and 
seeing that there are a variety of praiseworthy things in 
us, we must obviously attempt to discover that principle 
and to bring all its manifestations under it. Now in 
making this attempt we shall be more likely to succeed 
if we take the more comprehensively praiseworthy mani- 
festations as our basis than if we take the less compre- 
hensively praiseworthy ones. 


[The author now proceeds (2°) directly to his task of 
examining nobleness, and (t.) converts what was 
previously ( 1°, nt. ) only a probable inference into a 
certainty, by showing more precisely that moral 
virtue invariably implies nobleness, but nobleness 
does not invariably imply moral virtue.] 

Now that in the preceding section three certain Further 
things have been decided, which were necessary division 
in order to learn how we might define this 
excellent thing of which we are speaking, it 
behoves us to proceed to the following section, 2°. 
which begins : 

Gentlehood Is wherever there is virtue. 

And this must be reduced to two sections. In ^- if- 
the first a certain thing is proved which was 
touched upon, but left [lO^ unproved, before. 
In the second the conclusion is reached, and 
that definition which we are seeking is found. 
And this second part begins : 



Fuller Therefore shall be evolved {like perse from 

V^ooi black). 

i. To make the first section evident we are to 
recall what was said above, that if nobleness has 
a larger scope and extent than virtue, virtue will 
rather proceed from it. Which thing, to wit 
that nobility [20] has a wider extent, is proved 
in this section ; and it gives an illustration from 
the heaven, saying that wherever virtue is there 
is nobleness. And here be it known that (ac- 
cording as is written in Reason and is held as the 
rule of Reason) those things which are obvious 
in themselves have no need of proof; and 
nothing is more obvious than that there is noble- 
ness where there is virtue. And it is a matter 
of common observation that everything after its 
own nature can be [[30]] called noble. It says 

Even as the heaven is wherever is the star, 

but this is not true conversely (viz., that wherever 
the heaven is there the star is also), just so 
there is nobleness wherever there is virtue, but 
not virtue wherever there is nobleness. And 
this with a fair and congruous illustration ; for 
in truth it is a heaven in which many and divers 
stars shine ; the intellectual and the moral virtues 
shine in it ; good dispositions [40] given by 
nature shine in it, to wit tenderness and religion, 
and the praiseworthy emotions, to wit shame 
and compassion, and many others. There shine 
in it the excellencies of the body, to wit beauty, 
strength, and, so to speak, unbroken health ; 
and so many are the stars that extend over this 


heaven that verily it is no matter for wonder if of the de- 
they make many and divers fruits grow on nvation 
human nobleness, so many are their natural ° ^"' "* 
characteristics and potentialities, comprised and 
united in one [^503 simple substance ; and in 
them, as in divers branches, it bears divers fruits. 
Nay, in very truth I dare to affirm that human 
nobleness considered under the aspect of its many 
fruits surpasses that of the angel, although the 
angelic be more divine in its unity. Of this our 
nobleness, which fructifies in such and in so 
many fruits, the psalmist was aware when he 
composed that psalm which Q603 begins : ' O 
Lord our God, how wonderful is thy name 
throughout the earth ! ' where he extols man, 
as though marvelling at the divine affection for 
the human creature, saying : ' What is man that 
thou, God, visitest him ? Thou hast made him 
but little less than the angels ; with glory and 
with honour hast thou crowned him, and set him 
over the works of thy hands.' Verily then it 
was a beauteous and congruous [70] comparison 
of the heaven to human nobleness ! 
Then when it says : 

^nJ <we in vfomen and In youthful age^ 

it proves that which I say, showing that noble- 
ness extends itself into a region where virtue 
does not. And it says that we 

Perceive this saving thing 

(which refers to nobleness, which is indeed a 
truly saving thing) to exist where there is 
sensitiveness to shame, that is, fear of dishonour ; 
as in women and in young folk, where shame is 


from good and laudable ; which shame [80] is not a 
nobleness virtue but a certain estimable emotion. And it 
says : 

And nve in ivomen and in youthful age, 

that is in young people ; because, according as 
the Philosopher hath it in the fourth of the 
Ethics, * Shame is not laudable nor becoming in 
old men nor in studious folk,' because it behoves 
them to guard against those things which would 
cause them shame. Of young people and of 
women not so much of this line of conduct is 
required, and therefore in [[903 them the fear 
of encountering disgrace through some fault is 
laudable, for it comes from nobleness. And 
their fear may be regarded as nobleness, just as 
impudence is baseness and ignobleness. Where- 
fore it is a good and most excellent sign of 
nobleness in children and those of unripe age 
when shame is painted in their faces after a 
fault, for then it is the fruit of true nobleness. 

30-32, Compare II. 7 : 95 fF. 

36. It, namely nobility. 

44-52. Com^zrt Paradiso, 11. 115-117^ 

50. It is only metaphorically that nobleness is a * sub- 
stance ' at all. Compare III. 1 1 : 130-136, «o^£. For the 
unity of all the stars in heaven, see Paradise, II. 

55. Compare III. 7: 6911. 

58. Observe the conscious intellectual processes as- 
sumed, and compare ParaJiso, XX. 40-42. 

85. Studious folk. I have so translated uomini studiosi, 
(though with much hesitation), because I think Dante 
understood it so. In the Latin, however, studiosus is a 
translation of iTTieiK'^s, which means ' men of weight and 

94-98. Hence the -veleno of Beatrice's insistence on 
Dante's full manhood in Purgatorio, XXXI. 67 fF. 



[The author comes (it.) to the long-sought definition- 
by-effect itself. We have seen that virtue is a 
necessary outcome of nobleness. Therefore, no 
man can be ennobled by his family if he have 
not personally the godlike grace which indicates 
nobleness. It is the gift of God alone to such a 
soul as, having a rightly-disposed body to har- 
bour it, has taken a perfect stand therein. To 
such, nobility is ' the seed of blessedness dropped 
by God into a rightly -placed soul,' and this 
definition, though implying throughout the 
defining effects and not attempting an analysis 
(see Chapter X.), yet actually embraces all four 
causes of nobleness. ] v/ ».y£ij»iaj;i' 

When there follows next : Virtue 

Therefore shall be evolved (^as perse from blacli), nobleness 

the text proceeds to that definition of nobility ii. 
which we are seeking, and whereby we may 
perceive what this nobleness of which so many 
folk speak erroneously really is. It affirms then, 
drawing the conclusion from what has already 
been said, that every virtue, 

or their generic kind, 

namely the ' elective habit consisting in the 
[10] mean,' will proceed from this, to wit from 
nobleness. And it takes an illustration from 
the colours, saying that as perse derives from 
black, so does it, namely virtue, derive from 
nobleness. Perse is a colour mingled of purple 
and of black, but the black predominates, and it 
is called after it ; and thus virtue is a thing 
combined of nobleness and emotion ; but because 


Grace the nobleness predominates over the other, virtue 
9°*^' is called after it and is named goodness. 
^ C^oJ And so it goes on to argue from what 

has been said, that no one, because he can say 
* I am of such and such a race,' should believe 
that he has nobleness, unless these fruits are in 
him. And straightway it gives the reason, say- 
ing that those who have this * grace,' to wit this 
divine thing, are almost like gods, without taint 
of vice. And this gift can be given by none 
save God alone, with whom there is no selection 
of persons, as the divine [_^o2 scriptures make 
manifest. Nor let any deem it too lofty an 
utterance when it says : 

For they are nvell-nigh gods ; 

for, as argued above in the seventh chapter of the 
third treatise, just as there are men most base and 
bestial, so there are men most noble and divine. 
And Aristotle proves this in the seventh of the 
Ethics, by the text of the poet Homer. Where- 
fore let not him of the Uberti of Florence, nor 
him of the Visconti of Milan, say : [40] * Because 
I am of such a race I am noble ; ' for the divine 
seed falls not upon the race, that is the stock, 
but falls upon the several persons ; and, as will be 
shown below, the stock does not ennoble the 
several persons, but the several persons ennoble 
the stock. 

Then when it says : 

For God alone presents it to the soul, 

the discourse turns to the receptive being, that 
is the subject, whereon this divine [50] gift 


descends — for it is in truth a divine gift — accord ■ Souls in 

ing to the word of the apostle : ' Every best darkness 

gift and every perfect gift cometh from above, 

descending from the Father of lights.' It says 

then that God alone gives this grace to the soul 

of that man whom he sees perfectly balanced in 

his person and ready and disposed to receive 

this divine act. For, as the Philosopher says 

in the second Of the Soul : ' Things must needs 

be [603 in the right disposition for their agents 

in order to be acted on by them.' Wherefore 

if the soul takes not its perfect ♦ stand,' it is 

not so disposed as to receive this blessed and 

divine infusion ; just as if a precious stone be 

ill-disposed, or imperfect, it cannot receive the 

celestial virtue, as said that noble Guido Guini- 

zelli in an ode of his which begins : ' To the 

gentle heart love repaireth ever.' It is possible, 

then, [703 that the soul stands not well in the 

person through defect of complexion, and perhaps 

through defect of season ; and in such as these this 

divine ray never glows. And such, whose soul 

is deprived of this light, may say that they are 

like valleys turned to the north, or caves beneath 

the earth, where the light of the sun never 

descends unless thrown back from some other 

region whereon it shines. 

[80] Finally it draws the conclusion and 
declares according to what has been said above 
(namely that the virtues are the fruit of noble- 
ness, which God implants in the mind that sits 
rightly), that there are some (namely, those who 
have understanding, which are few), to whom 

the teed of blessedness draws nigh. 


The And it is evident that human nobleness is nought 
definition else than, 

the seed of blessedness draws nigh de- 

spatched by God into the well-placed soul^ 

that is, the soul whose body is perfectly disposed 
1^903 in every part. For if the virtues are the 
fruit of nobleness and if blessedness is the fruition 
of sweetness, it is manifest that this nobleness is 
the sower of blessedness, as has been said ; and 
if well considered, this definition embraces all 
the four causes, to wit, material, formal, efficient 
and final ; material, inasmuch as it says ' into 
the well-placed soul,' which is the material and 
subject of nobleness ; formal, inasmuch as it 
says that it is [looj 'the seed'; efficient, 
inasmuch as it says ' despatched by God into the 
soul ' ; final, inasmuch as it says ' of blessedness.' 
And thus is defined this excellence of ours, 
which descends into us after the fashion of a 
supreme and spiritual virtue, as virtue into the 
stone from noblest celestial body. 

17. I have not ventured to disturb the text, but since 
virtue is a habit or disposition, not a passion or emotion, 
and since Dante expressly insists (see line 80 of the 
previous chapter) that shame, being a passion, is not a 
virtue (compare Aristotle's Sunt autem et in passionibus . . . 
medietates. Verecundia enim -virtus quidem non est, etc., in 
Ethics, II. vii. ; ^4), it would seem that we ought to sub- 
stitute some such word as elezione for passione. 

Compare with this whole description the passage about 
gallantry in Ode xi. 68-105. 

19. Goodness, the Italian is bonta, which I have else- 
where translated 'excellence.' 

37. The passage had impressed Dante in early days. 
See Vita Nuo-va, § 2, 51 f. 

41-43. Compare Paradiso, VIII. 127-129. As ivill 


be s/ioivn below, viz., at the end of Chapter XXIX, of 
this treatise. 

62. If the body is not as it should be the soul is not 
rightly ' placed ' in it. 

71, 72. Consult the following chapter. 

90-93. Since blessedness consists in the fruition of 
delectable things, and the virtues secure that fruition, 
and nobleness produces the virtues, nobleness is the seed 
of blessedness. 

94 fF. The material cause, say of a ploughshare, is the 
iron out of which it is made. Its formal cause is the 
shape which makes it a ploughshare and not something 
else. Its efficient causes are the fire, the strokes of the 
smith, and so forth, which cause it to come into exist- 
ence. And its final cause is the end or purpose (viz., 
turning the furrow) the contemplation of which was the 
motive for producing it. All four causes of nobility 
Dante says are included in the definition. Compare III. 
II : 150, text and note. 


[A further examination of the way in which nobility 
descends upon man ; (a) as revealed by natural 
science ; (b) as revealed by theology. (a) The 
impregnating seed differs (1°) in its elemental 
composition, (2°) in the generative virtue of the 
begetter, and (3°) in the celestial influences that 
dominate the critical moment ; (which differences 
severally produce corresponding differences (1°) in 
the way in which the receptive ovum is physically 
prepared to submit to the action of the generative 
virtue ; (2°) in the way in which that generative 
virtue acts in articulating the foetus ; (3°) in the way 
in which the celestial virtue draws into actuality 
the potential life-principle contained in the seed). 
Then by special divine act (4°) the intellectual 
principle, involving the power of abstract thought, 
is superinduced. And in measure as all these 
processes and conditions are perfect (5°) divine 


excellences are multiplied in the soul. (b) 
Theological science enables us to add that these 
excellences are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and 
to rehearse them severally. An epilogue on 
spiritual appetite and its cultivation.] 

Human In order to understand the human excellence 
souls which is called nobleness, as the principle of 
all good in us, we are to elucidate, in this 
special chapter, how this excellence descends 
[a, b. into us ; and first in the natural way, and 
then in the theological, that is, the divine 
[a. and spiritual way. To begin with, we are to 
know that man is composed {^lo'] of soul and 
of body ; but that which has been declared to re- 
semble the seed of the divine virtue pertains to the 
soul. It is true that divers reasonings have been 
held by philosophers concerning the difference of 
our souls ; for Avicenna and Algazel would 
have it that they in themselves, and in their 
principle, were noble or base. Plato and others 
would have it that they proceeded from the 
stars and were noble, more or less, according to 
the nobleness of the star. [20] Pythagoras 
would have it that all were of like nobleness, 
and not only the human souls, but together with 
the human those of the brute animals and of 
the plants, and the forms of the minerals ; and 
he said that all the difference was in the bodily 
forms. If each were to defend his own opinion, 
it might be that truth would be seen to exist in 
all of them. But inasmuch as on the surface 
they appear somewhat remote from the truth, it 
is better not [^303 to proceed by way of them, 
but by way of the opinion of Aristotle and of 
the Peripatetics. And therefore I say that 


when the human seed falls into its receptacle, Why they 
that is, into the matrix, it bears with it the differ 
virtue of the generative soul, and the virtue of 
heaven, and the virtue of the elements it com- 
bines, that is to say, its complexion ; and it 
matures and disposes the material for the 
formative virtue which the soul of the generator 
gave. And the formative virtue prepares (^403 
the organs for the celestial virtue which draws 
the soul from the potentiality of the seed into 
life. And the moment it is produced it receives 
from the virtue of the mover of the heaven the 
possible intellect, which potentially draws into 
itself all the universal forms, according as they 
exist in its Producer, but in a lesser degree 
in proportion as it is more removed from the 
prime Intelligence. 

Let no man marvel if I speak in such wise 
[^503 as seems hard to understand ; for to me 
myself it seems a marvel how such a producing 
can be arrived at by argument and perceived by 
the intellect ; and it is not a thing to expound 
in language — I mean in any language truly 
vernacular. Wherefore I would say like the 
apostle : 'Oh, height of the wealth of the 
wisdom of God, how incomprehensible are thy 
judgments, and thy ways past finding out ! ' 
And because the complexion of the seed may 
[603 be more or less good, and the disposition of 
the sower may be more or less good, and the dis- 
position of the heaven for the effect may be good, 
better or best (since it varies by reason of the 
constellations which are continually changing), 
it comes to pass that from the human seed, and , 

from these virtues, the soul is produced more or 


The seed less pure. And according to its purity there 
of felicity descends into it the [70J possible intellectual 
virtue, which has been spoken of, and in the 
way spoken of. And if it chance that because 
of the purity of the receiving soul the intellectual 
virtue is well abstracted and absolved from every 
corporeal shade, the divine excellence is multi- 
plied in it, as in a thing sufficient for its recep- 
tion ; and hence there is multiplication of this 
intelligence in the soul according as it may 
receive it. And this is that ' seed of felicity ' 
of which at present we are speaking. 

[80] And this harmonizes with the opinion 
of Tully in that of Old Jge, where, speaking in 
the person of Cato, he says : ' Wherefore a 
celestial soul descended into us, coming down 
from the loftiest of habitations into a place which 
is counter to the divine nature and to eternity.' 
And in this such soul there exists its own 
proper virtue, and the intellectual virtue, and the 
divine, to wit, that influence of which we have 
just been speaking ; wherefore it is written in 
the book Of [[903 Causes : ' Every noble soul 
has three activities, to wit the animal, the 
intellectual, and the divine.' And there are 
some of such opinion as to say that if all the 
preceding virtues were to accord in the pro- 
duction of a soul in their best disposition, that 
so much of the Deity would descend thereon 
that it would almost be another incarnate God ; 
and this is almost all that can be said by way 
of natural science. 
[b. C'*-"^] By way of theological science it may 
be said that when the supreme Deity, that is 
God, sees his creature prepared to receive of 


his benefaction, he commits to it as largely Gifts of 
thereof as it is prepared to receive. And the spirit 
because these gifts come from ineffable love, 
and the divine love is appropriated to the Holy 
Spirit, they are thence called gifts of the Holy 
Spirit. The which, as Isaiah the Prophet [i loj 
distinguishes them, are seven, to wit, wisdom, 
understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, 
piety, and fear of God. Oh fair grain, and 
fair and marvellous seed ! and oh admirable 
and benign sower, who waitest only until human 
nature prepare the land for thee to sow ! Oh 
blessed they who fittingly cultivate such seed ! 
And here, be it known, that the first and noble 
shoot which sprouts from this seed [^120] to 
bear fruit, is mental appetite, which in Greek 
is called hormen. And if this be not well 
cultivated and kept straight by good habit, little 
avails the seed, and better would it be had it 
not been sown at all. And therefore St. 
Augustine lays it down (and also Aristotle in 
the second of the Ethics) that man should 
accustom himself to well-doing and to restrain- 
ing his passions, in order that this shoot that 
has been spoken of may C^S"^] grow strong by 
good habit and may be inured in its straightness, 
so that it may bear fruit, and from its fruit may 
issue the sweetness of human felicity. 

17. Compare ParaJiso, IV. 24, note. 

25. Bodily forms. * Form ' is not here used in its 
philosophical sense, but, as it would be in modern writing, 
for ' shape.' 

42. It, i.e., the soul. 

54. I suppose Dante means ' language which should 
really be vernacular,' that is, suited to convey his meaning 


to the unlettered. The mere Italianising of the technical 
terms of the schools would not be real vernacular. 

86-91. As to the terminology of this passage, which 
does not quite agree with what has gone before, consult 
note on III. 2 : 27. 

95-99. This singularly bold attempt to bring the in- 
carnation within the range of natural sequences seems 
almost to anticipate certain speculations of modern 
theologians. It is strange that (so far as I know) it has 
not been fastened on by any of those scholars who have 
sought to make Dante, especially when he wrote the 
Conw-vio, something of a heretic. 

124. Compare Purgatorio, XXX. 109-120. 


[Of the goal of human life and the progress of the soul 
towards it. Of love of self in general, and of the 
highest or intellectual self in particular. Of the 
practical and the speculative intellect and the 
blessedness which each may attain. Of the greater 
blessedness to be attained by the speculative life. 
Of the allegory of the three Marys at the tomb. 
Of the imperfect blessedness of earth and the per- 
fect blessedness of heaven.] 

Of gfiving It is enjoined by the moral philosophers who 
good guts jj^yg spoken of benefactions that man ought to 
bestow thought and care on making the benefits 
he confers as useful as may be to the receiver. 
Wherefore I, desiring to be obedient to such 
command, purpose to render this my banquet in 
every one of its parts as useful as shall be possible 
to me. And since []io] it here occurs to me 
that there is place for some discourse of the 
sweetness of human felicity, I conceive that no 
more useful discourse can be made for those who 


know it not; for (as saith the Philosopher in the Mental 
first of the Ethics, and Tully in that of the Goal appetite 
of Good) he makes ill progress towards the goal 
who does not see it. And in like manner he 
can advance but ill towards this sweetness who 
is not first aware of what it is. Wherefore, inas- 
much as it [203 is our final solace, for which 
we live and accomplish whatsoever we do, it is 
most useful and necessary to perceive this goal in 
order to direct the bow of our activity towards 
it. And he is chiefly acceptable who points it 
out to those who see it not. 

Letting be, then, the opinion on this matter 
which the philosopher Epicurus had, and that 
which Zeno had, I purpose to come at [30] 
once to the true opinion of Aristotle and of the 
other Peripatetics. As said above, from the 
divine excellence sown and infused into us from 
the beginning of our generation there springs a 
shoot which the Greeks call hormen, that is, 
natural appetite of the mind. And as the grains 
which, when born, have at first an almost 
identical appearance while yet in the blade, and 
then, as they go [40J forward, become unlike, 
so this natural appetite, which rises from the 
divine grace, at first appears not unlike that which 
comes just from nature, stripped of aught else, 
and (like the blade of divers grains) is almost 
identical with it. And this likeness is not con- 
fined to men, but extends to men and to beasts 
alike. And this appears herein that every 
animal, as soon as it is born, whether rational or 
brute, [503 loves itself and fears and flees those 
things which are counter to it, and hates them. 
Then, as things proceed, there begins, as said 


Distinc- above, to be unlikeness between them in the pro- 
tions in gress of this appetite, for one takes one path and 
self-love another another. As saith the apostle : ' Many 
run for the prize, but one is he who receives it,' 
so these human appetites proceed from their start- 
ing-point along divers paths, [60] and one only 
path is that which leads us to our peace. And 
therefore letting be all the others, our treatise is 
to hold after the one that begins aright. 

I say, then, that from the beginning it loves 
itself, although without discrimination. Then it 
comes to distinguish the things which are most 
pleasant, and less and more detestable, and 
follows and flees in greater and less degree 
according as its consciousness distinguishes not 
1370]] only in other things which it loves second- 
arily, but just in itself which it loves primarily. 
And recognising in itself divers parts, it loves 
those in itself most which are most noble. And 
since the mind is a more noble part of man than 
the body, it loves that more ; and thus, loving 
itself primarily and other things for its own sake, 
and loving the better part of itself better, it is 
clear that it loves the mind [^So] better than the 
body or aught else ; which mind it ought by 
nature to love more than aught else. Wherefore 
if the mind always delights in the exercise of the 
thing it loves (which is the fruition of love), 
exercise in that thing which it loves most is the 
most delightful. The exercise of our mind then 
is most delightful to us ; and that which is most 
delightful to us constitutes our felicity and our 
blessedness, [90] beyond which there is no delight, 
nor any equal to it, as may be seen by whoso 
well considers the preceding argument. 


And let not any say that every appetite is Practical 
mental, for here mind is taken only to mean that and spec- 
which has respect to the rational part, that is, • f j7^i. 
the will and the intellect. So that if anyone 
should choose to call the sensitive appetite mind, 
his objection would not and could not apply to 
the present matter ; for none doubts that the 
[100] rational appetite is more noble than the 
sensitive and therefore more to be loved ; and 
so that is the thing of which we are now 

It is true that the exercise of our mind is two- 
fold, to wit, practical and speculative (practical 
is as much as to say operative) ; the one and the 
other most delightful, though that of contempla- 
tion be more so, as was declared above. The 
practical exercise of the mind consists in our- 
selves working virtuously, that is, in integrity, 
[no] with prudence, with temperance, with 
courage, and with justice. The speculative 
exercise of the mind consists not in working our- 
selves at all, but in considering the works of 
God and of nature. And this and that exercise 
constitutes, as may be perceived, our blessedness 
and our supreme felicity. And this is the sweet- 
ness of the above-mentioned seed (as is now 
quite evident), whereto many times such seed 
attains not, by reason [120] that it is ill culti- 
vated and that its shoots go astray. In like 
manner, by much correction and cultivation 
some portion of the out-growth of this seed may 
be so led to a place where it did not originally fall 
as to come to this fruit. And this is, as it were, 
a kind of engrafting of another nature on a 
diverse root. And so there is none who can be 


Martha excused ; for if a man hath not this seed from 
and Mary his natural [130] root, he may at least have it 
by way of engrafting. Would that, in fact, they 
were as many who had engrafted it on them- 
selves, as are they who have let themselves 
straggle away from the good root ! 

But in truth the one of these exercises is more 
full of blessedness than the other, to wit the 
speculative, which, without any admixture, is 
the exercise of our most noble part, which, by 
reason of that fundamental love which has been 
spoken of, is chiefly to be loved, to wit [140] 
the intellect. And this part cannot in this life 
have its perfect exercise, which is to see God 
(who is the supreme object of the intellect), save 
in so far as the intellect considers him and con- 
templates him through his effects. And that we 
should supremely demand this blessedness and 
not the other (to wit that of the active life), 
the Gospel of Mark instructs us, if we would 
rightly consider it. Mark says that Mary [150] 
Magdalene and James' Mary and Mary Salome 
went to find the Saviour at the tomb, and found 
him not, but found a man dressed in white, who 
said to them : ' Ye seek the Saviour, and I say 
unto you that he is not here. Nevertheless, 
fear ye not, but go and say to his disciples, and 
to Peter, that he will go before them in 
Galilee, and there ye shall see him as he said 
unto you.' By these three [160] ladies may be 
understood the three schools of the active life, 
to wit, the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Peri- 
patetics, who go to the tomb, that is, to the 
present world, which is the receptacle of cor- 
ruptible things, and demand the Saviour, that is, 


blessedness, and find not ; but they find a man Galilee 
in white garments, who, according to the testi- 
mony of Matthew, and also of the others, was the 
angel of God. And therefore Matthew [170] 
said : * The angel of God descended from 
heaven and came and rolled away the stone and 
sat upon it ; and his aspect was as lightning and 
his garments were as snow.' 

This angel is this nobleness of ours, which 
comes from God, as has been said, which speaks 
in our reason and declares to each one of these 
schools, that is to everyone who goes seeking 
blessedness in the active life [ 1 80], that it is not 
there ; but go your way and tell the disciples and 
Peter, that is those who go seeking it and 
those who have gone astray (as Peter did when he 
denied him), that he will go before them in 
Galilee ; that is to say, that blessedness will go 
before them in Galilee, that is, in speculation, 
Galilee is as much as to say ' whiteness,' and 
whiteness is a colour full of material light more 
than any other ; and in like manner contempla- 
tion is [190] fuller of spiritual light than aught 
else which is here below. And it says : * And 
will go before you,' and does not say : ' And 
will be with you,' to give to understand that 
God is ever in advance of our contemplation ; 
nor ever can we here come up with him who is 
our supreme blessedness. And it says : * And 
there ye will see him, as he said ; ' that is, 
' And there ye will have of his sweetness, that 
is, of felicity, as has been promised to you here,' 
[200] that is to say, as it has been covenanted 
for you to have power to obtain. And thus it 1 

appears that our blessedness, which is this feli- 


Supreme city of which is the discourse, we can first find 
blessed- imperfect in the active life, that is, in the 
"^^^ activities of the moral virtues, and then per- 
fectly, in a way, in the activities of the intel- 
lectual. The which two activities are the 
quickest and straightest ways to lead us to the 
supreme blessedness, which may not here be 
had ; [210] as appears by what has been said. 

Throughout the whole discussion of the relation of 
nobility to virtue, and in his apology at the end of 
Chapter XVII. for taking the moral rather than the 
intellectual virtues for examination in connection with 
nobility, Dante has been conscious of the conception 
upon which he directly enters in this chapter. Virtue 
refers to conduct, whereas the ultimate objects of desire are 
mental experiences. Therefore to understand^ to love and 
to rejoice, not to do, must be the ultimate goal of effort. 
Virtue, then, can only be a path to the goal, and ethics 
can never be final or self-justifying, for they must have 
reference to a life of ideal emotional relations, to which 
they tend. The life of moral effort must therefore tend 
to supersede itself by introducing a life of spontaneous 
Tightness and blessedness of affection. This, though 
inevitable to the thinker, has often seemed a hard saying 
to the teacher of morals and to the practical man. Hence 
Dante's desire (end of Chapter XVII.) to deal, as far as 
he can, with what is generally understood. Compare 
Purgatorio, XVIII. 49-63, together with the argument and 
notes (in the 'Temple Classics,' Dante). The whole of the 
Paradiso may be regarded as an elaboration of this con- 

I ff. Compare I. 8 : 26 ff. 

46. I have no hesitation in adopting the reading negli 
uomini in preference to the nelle biade of the Oxford Dante. 

82. Mind. The Italian is mente. Elsewhere in this 
passage mind represents the Italian animo (to be carefully 
distinguished from anima), but the two words animo and 
mente appear to be used as synonyms. Whereas in IV. 1 5 : 
108 ff. , mente and intelletto are expressly identified ; and it 
is in fact the vov% (intelletto) that is under discussion. 
Compare III. 2 : 102, note. 


94-102. So also in Purgatorio, XVII. 93, a distinction 
is made between the rational love of the animo and natural 
love. See note on the passage. If anyone should choose 
to call the appetite of the senses animo, and then to attack 
the author's statements, it would not really affect his 
position, which is based on the relative nobleness of the 
animo. Whatever use he or his opponent may choose 
to make of words, it is rational appetite, not appetite 
of sense, that is under discussion, 

107. Compare IV. 17 : H3-115, and II. 5 : 74. 

131 ff. My punctuation differs from that of the 
editions ; and as this work is passing through the press I 
am glad to find that it is confirmed (and anticipated) by 
Mr Toynbee. 

140 ff. III. 8 : 28-47 3"'^ note on 39. The contrast here 
is between seeing God essentially and seeing him in his 
effects. Compare Para -//jo, XXXI. 109-111 and note. 

187. Dante probably got this (groundless) idea of the 
meaning of Galilee from Uguccione (IV. 6 : 20, note^, 
who himself took it from Isidore (Toynbee). 

205. In spite of Dante's explicit assertions that full 
blessedness is not attainable on earth, his praises of his 
lady repeatedly draw him into declarations which 
almost amount to saying that philosophy can give perfect 
happiness on earth. Compare III. 8 (as above). 


[(/3) Of the manifestations of nobleness (i. ) in general 
in every branch of life, and (ii. ) in specific ways 
at every period of life. How human life being 
caused by heaven conforms to the heavenly arch 
in rising and declining. Of its apex, and of its 
four divisions, corresponding with the several 
combinations of the four principles of hot, cold, 
moist, dry. Of the analogous seasons of the 
year and periods of the day. ] 

Now that the definition of nobility has been Noble- 
adequately expounded and cleared, and has been "ess 
illustrated in its divisions as far as possible, so 


as mani- that we can understand now what a noble man 
fasted ig^ -^e are to proceed to the part of the text 
o which begins : 

T%e soul whom this excellence adorns ; 

wherein are shown the tokens whereby we 
may recognise the noble man that has been 
spoken [loj of. And this part is divided into 
i. ii. two ; the first affirms that this nobleness openly 
shines and glows through the whole life of the 
noble one ; in the second it is specifically in- 
dicated in its several lustres ; and this second 
part begins : 

Obedient, sweet and alive to shame. 

i. Concerning the first part be it known that 
this divine seed, of which we have spoken above, 
buds forth in our [20] soul instantly, yielding 
itself in divers fashions to every power of the 
soul, according to their needs. It buds, then, 
in the vegetative, in the sensitive and in the 
rational, and branches out through the virtues of all 
of these, directing them to their perfections, and 
therein ever maintaining itself, until, together 
with that part of our soul which never dies, it 
returns to its most lofty and [^303 glorious 
sower, to heaven. And this it says in that first 
part which has been spoken of. 
ii. Then, when it says : 

Obedient, sweet and alive to shame, and the rest, 

it sets forth that by which we may recognise 

the noble man, by apparent signs, which are 

the working of this divine excellence. And 

1°, 2°,3°,4°. this part may. be divided into four, according as 


it works diversely in the four ages, to wit, in the 
in adolescence, in manhood, in age, [^403 and several 
in decrepitude. And the second part begins : ^^^ 

In manhood temperate and brave ; 

the third begins : 

^nd in old age ; 

the fourth begins : 

Then in the fourth term of life. 

Such is the meaning of this part in general ; 
concerning which it should be known that every 
effect, as effect, receives the likeness of its cause 
as far as it is possible to retain it. \_^o~\ Where- 
fore inasmuch as our life (as said above), and 
also that of every creature that lives here below, 
is caused by heaven, and heaven displays itself 
to all such effects not in its complete circle, 
but in part thereof, and thus its motion must 
needs be above them, and like an arch, as it 
were embracing all lives as it mounts and de- 
scends (I say embracing these 'lives' both of 
men and of other living things), they must needs 
be Q603 in a way likened to the image of an 
arch. Returning then to our own life alone, 
with which we are at present concerned, I affirm 
that it proceeds after the fashion of this arch, 
mounting and descending. 

And be it known that this upstretching arch 
would be equal Qn every case^ if the material 
of our seminal complexion did not impede the 
rule of human nature. But since the humid 
factor (which is the seat \_^o~\ and the nutriment 
of the heat which constitutes our life) is less or 
more, and is of better quality, and has more 


Of the duration, in one effect than in another, it comes 
apex of to pass that the arch of life of one man is of less 
or greater stretch than that of another. Death 
is sometimes violent or is hastened by incidental 
weakness ; but only that which is commonly 
called ' natural ' constitutes the limit whereof 
the psalmist says : ' Thou hast placed [[80] a 
boundary which may not be passed.' And 
inasmuch as the master of our life, Aristotle, 
was aware of this arch of which we are speaking, 
he seemed to maintain that our life was no 
other than a mounting and a descending, 
wherefore he says in that wherein he treats of 
Touth and Age, that youth is no other than the 
growing of life. It is hard to say where the 
highest point of this arch is, because of the \j)o'] 
inequality spoken of above ; but in the majority 
I take it to be somewhere between the thirtieth 
and the fortieth year. And I believe that in 
those of perfect nature it would be in the thirty- 
fifth year. And I am moved thereto by this 
argument that our Saviour Christ was of perfect 
nature, and it was his will to die in the thirty- 
fourth year of his age ; for it was not fitting that 
the Divinity should thus abide in decrease. 
Nor is it to be [looj believed that he would 
not abide in this our life up to the apex, inasmuch 
as he had been therein in the low estate of 
infancy. And this is manifested by the hour of 
the day of his death, for he desired to conform 
this to his life ; wherefore Luke tells us that it 
was about the sixth hour when he died, which 
is to say the apex of the day. Wherefore we 
may understand by this that about the thirty-fifth 
year of Christ was the, apex [1 103 of his age. 


However, it is not specially with reference to Of the 
its central point that scriptures divide this arch, fouf ages 
but rather, according as the combinations of the 
contrary qualities which enter into our composition 
are four (to which, I mean to each combination, 
one section of our life seems to be appropriated), 
they divide it into four parts, which are called 
the four ages. The first is adolescence, which 
is appropriated to the [^1203 hot and moist; the 
second is manhood, which is appropriated to 
the hot and dry ; the third is age, which is 
appropriated to the cold and dry ; the fourth is 
decrepitude, which is appropriated to the cold 
and moist, as Albert writes in the fourth of the 

And these parts occur in like manner in the 
year, in spring, in summer, in autumn, and in 
winter; and also in the day, that is, [130] up 
to tierce, and then up to nones (omitting sext 
between these two, for an obvious reason), and 
then up till vespers, and from vespers onward. 
And therefore the Gentiles said that the car of 
the sun had four horses, the first was called 
Eous, the second Pyroeis, the third ^thon, the 
fourth Phlegon (according as Ovid writes in the 
second of the Metamorphoses^, with reference to 
the parts of the day. And [1403 briefly be it 
known that, as said above in the sixth chapter 
of the third treatise, the church in distinguishing 
between the hours of the day makes use of the 
temporal hours, of which there are twelve in 
each day, long or short according to the measure 
of the sun ; and because the sixth hour, which 
is midday, is the most noble of the whole day, 
and the most virtuous, she approximates her 


Noontide offices thereto from each direction, that is to say 
noble before and after, as much as she may. And 
therefore the office of the [1503 first part of the 
day, that is tierce, is called after its close, and 
that of the third part and of the fourth after 
their beginnings ; and therefore we speak of 
* mid - tierce ' before the bell rings for that 
division, and of mid-nones after the bell has 
rung for that division ; and in like manner of 
mid-vespers. And therefore let every man 
know that the right nones ought always to be 
rung at the beginning of the seventh hour of the 
day; and let this suffice for the present C'^*^]] 

28-30. Compare Purgatorio, XXI. 44 f. ; Paradiso, 
XXX. 112-114. 

58. Though man as an immortal being is not confined 
by the material heavens, yet as long as his soul is united 
to his body on earth he is subject to their limitations in 
all his organic life. Compare II. 9 : 20 ff. 

92 ff. The Florentines began their year on the 25th of 
March, reckoning that the incarnation took place at the 
moment of the annunciation. Apparently Dante held that 
Christ died just on the threshold of the thirty-fifth year 
after the annunciation, which would be in the thirty-fourth 
year of his life, reckoned from his birth. Inferno, XXI. 
113, in combination with this passage, is generally (and I 
think rightly) regarded as giving the year 1300 a.d. for the 
Vision, but the phraseology of this passage, if the reading 
is correct, is too equivocal, and the questions involved are 
too complicated, to justify a discussion of the dissentient 
opinions here. 

95. If we were to push the combination of this passage 
with Inferno, I. i, so far as to make it involve an 
assertion on Dante's part that he himself was ottimamente 
naturato, we should probably not be doing him any injustice. 
Compare Purgatorio, XXX. 109 ff. 

105. Luke tells us. The passage (Luke xxiii. 44-46) 
runs : Erat autem fere hora sexta ; et tenebrae factae sunt 


in uni-versam terram usque in horam nonam, et ehscuratus est 
sol et -velum templi scissum est medium. Et damans "voce 
magna Jesus ait: Pater, in manus tuas commend spiritum 
meum! et haec dicens expira-vit. Dante seems to have 
taken usque in horam nonam as merely defining the 
period to which the darkness lasted, and to have taken 
all the rest as directly connected with erat autemfere hora 

130. Compare III. 6 : 12-32. Whatever difficulties 
this passage may present with reference to the usages of 
the Church, Dante's meaning seems perfectly clear. 
tierce lasts from the first hour to the third (/.^., 6 to 
9 a.m.), sext from the third to the sixth (9 a.m. to 12 
noon), nones from the sixth to the ninth (12 to 3 p.m.), 
and vespers from the ninth to the twelfth (3 to 6 p.m.). 
But the attraction of midday makes us ring the hours as near 
as we can to sext^ and therefore tierce is rung at the end 
of the period it covers {i.e., at the end of the third hour, 
9 o'clock a.m.), whereas nones and -vespers are rung at the 
beginning of the periods they cover (that is, at the end of 
the sixth and the end of the ninth hour respectively, 
/.«., at 12 noon and 3 p.m.); and accordingly sext is 
squeezed out altogether. Dante's own usage accords with 
this. Thus in Inferno., XXXIV. 96, mezza terza is half- 
past seven a.m., and in Purgatorio, III. 25, -vespero is 
3 p.m. 


[Further of the four ages. And then (1°) of adol- 
escence and the four graces that beseem it. And 
first (/.) of obedience.] 

Returning to our purpose, I say that human Adoles- 
life is divided into four ages. The first is called cence 
adolescence, that is, the ' increasing ' of life. 
The second is called ' manhood,' that is to say, 
the age of achievement, which may give per- 
fection, and in this sense it is itself called 


Manhood perfect, because none can give aught save what 

and age he hath. The third is called old age. The 

fourth is called decrepitude, [lo] as said above. 

As to the first, no one hesitates, but every 
sage agrees that it lasts up to the twenty-fifth 
year ; and because up to that time our sou! is 
chiefly intent on conferring growth and beauty 
on the body, whence many and great changes 
take place in the person, the rational part cannot 
come to perfect discretion ; wherefore Reason 
lays down that before this age [20] there are 
certain things a man may not do without a 
guardian of full age. 

As for the second, which is truly the summit 
of our life, there is great diversity concerning 
the period to be taken ; but passing over what 
philosophers and physicians have written about 
it, and having recourse to my own argumentation, 
I say that in the majority (on whom every 
judgment about a natural phenomenon may and 
should be based) this age lasts twenty years. 
And the argument which gives me this, [30] 
is that, if the apex of our arch is at thirty-five, 
the age under discussion should have as long a 
period of descent as it has of ascent ; and this 
rising and descending may be likened to the 
sustained height of the arch wherein but slight 
bending is to be discerned. We have it, then, 
that the prime of life is completed at the forty- 
fifth year. 

And as adolescence lasts twenty-five years, 
mounting up to the prime of [^40] life, so the 
descent, that is, age, is a like period, succeeding 
to the prime of life ; and so age ends at the 
seventieth year. 


But inasmuch as adolescence (taking it as we Decrepi- 
have done above) does not begin at the begin- ^"^^ 
ning of life, but some eight months after, and 
inasmuch as our nature is eager to rise and hangs 
back from descending (because the natural [50] 
heat is reduced and has small power, and the 
humid is thickened, not in quantity but in 
quality, and so is less easily evaporated and 
consumed) it comes to pass that beyond old 
age there remains perhaps to the amount of 
ten years of our life, or a little more or a little 
less. And this period is called decrepitude. 
Whence we have it of Plato — whom (both in 
the strength of his own nature, and because of 
the [603 physiognomiscope which Socrates cast 
for him when first he saw him) we may believe 
to have had the most excellent nature — that he 
lived eighty-two years, as testifies Tully in that 
Of Old Age. And I believe that if Christ had 
not been crucified and had lived out the space 
which his life had power to cover according to 
its nature, he would have been changed at the 
eighty-first year from mortal body to eternal. 

Truly, as said above, {jo~\ these several ages 
may be longer or shorter, according to our 
complexion and composition, but however they 
may fall, I take it that the proportion laid down 
should be observed in them all, that is, we must 
make the ages longer or shorter according to 
the totality of the whole period of their natural 
life. Through all these ages this nobleness of 
which we are speaking manifests its effects 
diversely [^8oj in the ennobled soul ; and this 
is what this part about which I am at present 
writing purposes to show. And here, be it 


Of virtues known, that our nature, when good and straight, 
in season follows a seasonable procedure in us (as we see 
the nature of plants doing in them), and there- 
fore different ways and different deportment are 
suitable at one age rather than at others, wherein 
the ennobled soul proceeds in [90] due order, 
on one simple path, exercising its acts in their 
times and ages according as they are ordained 
for its ultimate fruit. And Tully agrees herein 
in that Of Old Age. And passing by the 
account which Virgil gives under a figure in the 
JEneid of this changing progress of the ages, and 
passing by what Egidius the Eremite says in 
the first part of the Regimen of Princes, and 
passing by what [looj Tully says of it in the first 
Of Offices, and following only that which reason 
1°. may see of herself, I say that this first age is 
the gate and path whereby we enter upon a 
good life. And this entrance must of necessity 
have certain things which nature in her goodness, 
failing not in things necessary, giveth us ; even as 
we see she giveth leaves to the vine to protect her 
fruit, and tendrils [no] wherewith she supports 
and binds her weakness so as to sustain the 
weight of her fruit. 

Nature then, in her goodness, gives to this 
i. ii. Hi. iv. age four things needful for entrance into the 
city of the right life. The first is obedience, 
the second is sweetness, the third sensitiveness 
to shame, the fourth is grace of body, as the 
«. text says in the first section. You are to know 
[120J then that like as he who was never in a 
city would not know how to keep the way 
without instruction from him who has practised 
it, so the adolescent who enters into the 


wandering wood of this life would not know Of obedi- 
how to keep the right path if it were not shown ence 
him by his elders. Nor would their indications 
avail if he were not obedient to their command- 
ments, and therefore obedience was [^130] 
necessary for this age. It is true that some 
might say : * Then, can he be called obedient 
who shall give credence to evil commands, just 
as well as he who shall give credence to good 
ones ? ' I answer that this would not be 
obedience but transgression, for if the king 
command one path and the servant command 
another, the servant is not to be obeyed for 
that would be disobeying the king, and so would 
be transgression. And therefore Solomon (^140^ 
says when he purposes to correct his son (and 
this is his first injunction) : 'Hearken, my son, 
to the admonition of thy father,' and then at 
once he warns him off from the evil counsel 
and instruction of others, saying : 'Let not the 
sinners have power to allure thee with flatteries 
nor with delights, that thou go with them.' 
Wherefore, just as, so soon as he is born, the child 
cleaves to his mother's breast, in like manner, 
as soon as [150] any light of the mind appears 
in him, he should turn to the correction of his 
father, and his father should teach him ; and let 
him see to it that he give him no example of 
himself in his works counter to his words of 
correction, for we see every son by nature look 
more to the prints of the paternal feet than to 
others. And therefore the law which provides 
for this affirms and commands that the person 
of the father should ever [^1603 be regarded as 
holy and reverent by his sons. And thus we 


season- see that obedience was necessary in this age. 
able in And therefore Solomon writes in the Proverbs 
^cei^e ^^^^ * ^^ ^^° humbly and obediently endures 
fitting reprehension from the corrector shall be 
glorious,' and he says ' shall be ' to give to 
understand that he is speaking to the adolescent 
who cannot be glorious at his present age. And 
if any should cavil, in that this is said of the 
father and [170J not of others, I say that all 
other obedience should be reduced to the father. 
Wherefore the apostle says to the Colossians : 
' Children obey your fathers in all things, for 
this is the will of God.' And if the father is 
not living, this obedience should be reduced to 
him who is left as father by the father's last 
will ; and if the father die intestate it should 
be reduced to him to whom Reason commits his 
guidance. C^^'-'Il -^0^ next his masters and 
elders should be obeyed, to whom in a certain 
sense he seems to have been entrusted by the 
father or by him who holds the place of father. 
But since the present chapter has been long, on 
account of the profitable digressions which it 
contains, the other points are to be discussed in 
another chapter, 

5 f. There is a play upon words in the original. 
Gio-ventuie is the age which pub gio-vare. I have some- 
times translated gio'ventute ' manhood,' and sometimes 
'the prime of life,' or 'prime manhood.' 'Youth' 
would almost always be misleading. 

9. Senettute is sometimes translated ' old age,' some- 
times simply ' age.' 

47. The Oxford Dante reads otto anni ; but the manu- 
script authority is said to be in favour of otto mesi, which 
is certainly the true reading. Dante's argument is as 
follows : AH agree that adolescence ends at twenty-five. 
At thirty-five the central point of life is reached. Ten 


years, therefore, from the end of adolescence brings us to 
the middle of manhood ; and so ten years more will bring 
us to its close. At forty-five we enter old age, which 
must last as long as adolescence did, and this will carry 
us to seventy, if we reckon adolescence at twenty-five 
years, that is to say, if we suppose it to begin at birth. 
But ' reckoning so ' (figliandola per lo modo che detto e) we 
do not really come to the beginning of life, for we have 
not reckoned the pre-natal period ; and (for the reasons 
assigned in the text) we must reckon a longer period for 
the supplement, after the termination of age, than we did 
for the preface before the beginning of adolescence. The 
only difficulty that may present itself to the reader is that 
the pre-natal period is given as ' about eight months,' 
whereas nine might have been expected. But a com- 
parison of the notes of Buti and of Benvenuto on Purgatorio, 

XXV. 50, will yield us the curious fact that in the opinion 
of Dante's age the actual life of the fcetus began just 
twenty-four days after conception. 

60. The Italian is e per la Jisonomia che di lui prese 
Socrare, which is usually understood 'according to the 
physiognomy which enamoured Socrates of him ' ; but I 
think the translation I have given must be correct. The 
art of reading men's characters from a study of their 
features was practised in ancient times, and a pseudo- 
Aristotelian treatise is extant on the subject. I have not 
found any tradition of Socrates exercising the art on Plato, 
or any other, but there is a well-known story in which 
he himself is the subject of the operation. ' What 1 do 
we ru)t read of Socrates, how he was noted down by 
Zopyrus, the physiognomist, who professed to read men's 
characters and natures from their body, their eyes, their 
features, their brows?' Cicero, De Fato, Chapter V, 
The result of the inspection, in this case, was anything but 
complimentary to its subject. 

69. In the preceding chapter, line 65 ff. 

84. Seasonaile. The Italian is ragione'volmentey which 
will apply to anything that observes due relation or 

97. Egidius the Eremite. An Augustinian monk 

(c. 1245-1316 A.D.), Besides the book here referred to 

he wrote, at the command of Boniface VIII., a treatise 

supporting the validity of Celestine's abdication (Toynbee). 



Compare Inferno, III. 58-60. There is of course no 
connection between this Egidius and the early disciple of 
Francis mentioned in Paradiso, XI. 83. 

146. Pro'verbs, i. 10. Fill mi, si te lacta-verint pec- 
catores, ne acquiescas eis. The verb lactare, originally ' to 
suckle,' was regularly used in Latin for 'blandishing' 
or 'enticing.' The phrase doubtless influenced (as Miss 
Hillard suggests) Dante's imagery in the following 

165. Pro-verbs, xv. 31. Auris qua audit increpa- 
tiones -vittie, in medio sapientium conimorabitur. There is 
nothing about being * glorious ' in the passage ; but Dante 
appears to have read conimorabitur =' shM abide' as 
commemorabitur = ' shall be commemorated.' He probably 
read from a manuscript with contractions, and false 'ex- 
pansions ' are a very frequent source of error. 

170. That is to say, 'it may be objected that I have 
only argued for obedience to the father, which does not 
cover the whole ground.' Dante proceeds more sua to 
show that it does, by implication, cover the whole 

173. Colossians, iii. 20. Filii obedite parentibus per 
omnia : hoc enim placitum est in Domino. It is certainly 
worth noting that Dante translates parentibus ' fathers,' 
instead of 'parents'; but rather too much has been made 
of this. No doubt he honestly understood the text as he 
translates it; and did not deliberately substitute ' fathers ' 
in order to exclude 'mothers.' Compare De Monarchia, 
III. 3 : 128 fF., ilia rcverentia fretus, quam pius Jilius debet 
patri, quam plus filius matri. And also Paradiso, XXVII. 
133-135, as well as such passages as Purgatorio, XXX. 
43-45, of which there are many. There is no doubt, 
however, that both from the physiological and the 
sociological point of view Dante shared the limitations 
of his age as to motherhood. Compare, for instance, 
the complete ignoring, in chapter xxi. of this treatise, of 
the possibility of any differences in the female factor in 
generation affecting the constitution of the offspring. 


[Of the further graces that beseem adolescence, and 
(it.) of sweetness, (m.) of abashment, of which 
there are three kinds. Of Statius's examples 
from the court of Adrastus. {tv.) Of comeliness 
of person. 

Not only is this well-natured soul obedient in Sweet- 
adolescence, but it is also sweet, and this is the ness and 
second thing which is necessary in this time of ^^^ 
life for rightly entering the gate of manhood. 
It is necessary because we cannot have perfect "• 
life without friends, as Aristotle hath it in the 
eighth of the Ethics ; and the greater part of 
friendships appear QioJ to be sown in this first 
age, because therein man begins to be gracious or 
the opposite. The which grace is acquired by 
sweet conduct, to wit gentle and courteous 
speech, gentle and courteous service and action. 
And therefore says Solomon to his youthful 
son : * The scorners God scorns, and to the 
meek God will give grace.' And elsewhere he 
says : ' Remove from thee the evil mouth, and 
let Q203 churlish mowings be far from thee.' 
Whereby it appeareth that this sweetness is 
necessary, as has been said. 

And further the emotion of abashment is need- Hi. 
ful to this period of life, and therefore in this 
period the good and noble nature manifests it as 
the text says. And since abashment is the most 
obvious token of nobleness in adolescence (for 
it is then supremely needful for the right founda- 
tion of [30] our life, which is what the noble 
nature purposes), we must diligently speak 
thereof some little. I say that by abashment I 


season- understand three emotions necessary for the right 
able in founding of our life. The first is bemazeraent ; 
adoles- ^^^ second is pudicity ; the third is shame ; 
• o •o although the common folk perceives not this 
' distinction. And all these three are needful to 
this period of life, for this reason : This [40] 
period needs to be reverent and desirous of 
knowledge ; this period needs to be restrained, 
so as not to transgress ; this period needs to be 
penitent for error, so as not to become hardened 
in erring. And all these make up the emotions 
mentioned above, which are vulgarly called 
t°- For bemazement is bewilderment of mind on 
seeing or hearing, or in any wise [^50]] per- 
ceiving, great and wonderful things ; for in so 
far as they appear great, they make him who 
perceives them reverent towards them, and in so 
far as they appear wonderful they make him who 
perceives them desirous to have knowledge of 
them. And therefore the ancient kings con- 
trived magnificent works of gold and gems and 
artful machinations in their mansions, that they 
who beheld them should be bemazed and there- 
fore reverent, and should make question of the 
honourable conditions [603 of the king. And 
therefore says Statius, the sweet poet, in the 
first of the Story of T/xbes, that when Adrastus, 
king of the Argives, saw Polynices clad in a lion's 
hide, and saw Tideus covered with the hide of a 
wild boar, and minded him of the answer which 
Apollo had given concerning his daughters, that 
he was bemazed, and therefore the more reverent 
and the more desirous to know. 
w.° Pudicity is a shrinking of the mind [^703 from 


foul things, with the fear of falling into them ; The 
as we see in virgins and in good women and in court of 
the adolescent, who are so modest that not only Adrastus 
where they are urged or tempted to err, but where 
only a bare imagination of venereal pleasure can 
find place, are all painted in the face with pale or 
with red colour. Wherefore says the above- 
named poet in the first book [803 Of Thebes, 
just cited, that when Aceste, the nurse of Argia 
and of Deiphyle, daughters of king Adrastus, 
brought them before the eyes of their august 
father, in the presence of two strangers, to wit 
Polynices and Tideus, the virgins became pale 
and red, and their eyes fled from every other 
regard and kept turned only to their father's 
face, as though secure. Oh, how many faults 
does this pudicity restrain ! How many un- 
seemly acts and demands [90] does it put to 
silence ! How many unseemly desires does it 
rein back ! How many evil temptations does it 
not abash — not only in the modest person's self, 
but in him who looks thereon ! How many 
foul words does it hold back ! For, as Tully 
says in the first Of the OJices : * There is no foul 
act that it is not foul to mention.' And accord- 
ingly a clean and noble man never so speaks 
that his words would be unseemly for a woman. 
Oh, how n^ooj ill it becomes the man who 
goes in search of honour to speak of things 
which would be unseemly in the mouth of any 
woman ! 

Shame is fear of disgrace for a fault com- iit^. 
mitted. And from this fear springs repentance 
for the fault, which has in itself a bitterness 
which is a chastisement against repeating the 


Bodily fault. Wherefore this same poet says in that 
graces game passage, that, when Polynices was [no] 
questioned by king Adrastus of his origin, 
he hesitated before speaking, for shame of the 
fault he had committed against his father, and 
further for the faults of OEdipus his father, which 
seemed to leave their trace in the shame of the 
son. And he did not mention his father, but his 
ancestors and his land and his mother. And by 
all this it well appears that shame is necessary to 
this period of life. 
«^'- And not only does the noble nature display 
fi2o3 obedience, sweetness and abashment in 
this age, but it displays beauty and agility of 
body, as the text says when it declares : 

jind adorns the person. 

And this * adorns ' is a verb and not a noun ; I 
mean a verb indicative, present tense, and third 
person. And here be it known that this effect 
also is necessary for the excellence of our life, 
for our soul must needs accomplish a great part 
of its doings by a [1303 bodily organ; and it 
accomplishes them well when the body is well 
ordained and disposed in its parts. And when 
it is well ordained and disposed, then it is 
beauteous as a whole and in its parts ; for the due 
order of our members conveys the pleasure of a 
certain wondrous harmony ; and their right 
disposition, that is their health, throws over 
them a colour lovely to behold. And so, to 
say that the noble nature beautifies [140] its 
body and makes it comely and alert, is to say 
not less than that it adjusts it to the perfection 
of order. And this, together with the other 


things that have been discoursed of, appears to Full 
be needful to adolescence ; and these are the equip- 
things which the noble soul, that is the noble ^^iig° 
nature, being, as said above, a thing sown by cence 
divine providence, designs for it in its first 

20. Pro-verbs, iv. 24. Remo-ve a te os fra-vum, et detra- 
hentia labia sint proad a te. The Italian reads e git atti 
"villani sieno lungi da te, from which it is obvious that 
Dante took detrahentia as intransitive, and instead of 
detracting lips understood it to mean lurhhing lips, and so 
read it as a prohibition of 'making faces' at people! 
Atto is used by Dante for every kind of significant 
expression or gesture. The transition from facial ex- 
pression to expressive gestures or pose being so much 
easier to the Italian than to the northerner, art's is in many 
connections a singularly difficult word to translate. I 
have often rendered it 'gesture.' 

24 ff. It is impossible to find four words for -vergogna, 
stupore, pudore, and verecundia, which shall be at once 
familiar and precise. The translator can only ask in- 
dulgence of his readers. Happily Dante makes his 
meaning perfectly clear in each case by his definitions and 
examples. Modesty might be a better word than 
' pudicity ' as the translation oi pudore, but I was unwill- 
ing to narrow ' modesty ' to one particular form of its 
manifestation. Against both • modesty ' and * pudicity ' it 
may be rightly objected that they stand for a ' disposition ' 
and not a 'passion' or 'emotion.' Compare II. 11 : 

66. TAe answer, etc. The oracle had declared that 
they were to marry a lion and a boar. 

125. Compare I. 7 : 44-50, note. 



[Of the graces that beseem (2°) manhood, to wit, 
(i.) temperance, (u.) courage, (ni.) love, (t'v.) 
courtesy, and {v.) loyalty; and of Virgil's ex- 
ample of ^neas.] 

For self- Now that we have discoursed upon the first 

perfection section of this part, which shows whereby we 

may recognise the noble man by outward tokens, 

we are to proceed to the second section thereof, 

which begins : 

In manhood temperate and brave. 

30^ It says, then, that as the noble nature in 
adolescence shows itself to be obedient, sweet, 
and alive to shame, giving adornment to \_io~\ 
the person, so, in the prime of life, it is tem- 
perate, and brave, and loving, and courteous, and 
loyal, which five things appear and are necessary 
i. a. Hi. to our perfection in so far as has respect to our- 
tv. V. selves. And concerning this we are to know 
that everything which the noble nature prepares 
in the first period of life is provided and ordained 
by the foresight of universal nature, which 
ordains particular nature to her perfection. [^20^ 
This perfection of ours may be considered in 
two ways : it may be considered as having 
respect to ourselves, and this perfection should 
be reached in the prime of our life, which is its 
apex ; or it may be considered as having respect 
to others. And since it is necessary first to be 
perfect and then to communicate perfection to 
others, this second perfection must needs be had 
after that age, to wit in old age, [30] as will 
be said below. 


Here, then, must be called to mind the dis- we need 
course contained above in the twenty-second temper- 
chapter of this treatise, concerning the appetite ^^*-®' 
which is born in us from our beginning. This 
appetite never doth aught else save pursue and 
flee ; and whensoever it pursues the right thing 
in the right degree and flees the right thing 
[40] in the right degree, man is within the 
boundaries of his perfection. But this appetite 
must needs be ridden by reason. For just as a 
horse let loose, however noble he may be by 
nature, does not conduct himself aright by him- 
self without a good rider, so this * appetite,' 
which is known as irritable and appetitive, how- 
ever noble it may be, must needs obey reason, 
which [50] guides it with rein and with spurs, 
like a good horseman. The rein it uses when 
appetite is in pursuit (and this rein is called 
temperance, which shows the limit up to which the 
pursuit is to be carried) ; the spur it uses when 
appetite is fleeing to make it return to the place 
whence it seeks to flee (and this spur is called 
courage, or consciousness of greatness, which 
virtue shows us where to make a stand and fight). 
And thus restrained, []6o3 Virgil, our greatest 
poet, shows ^neas to have been, in that part of 
the JEmid where this period of life is repre- 
sented, which part embraces the fourth, the fifth, 
and the sixth books of the Mneid, And how i. 
great a restraint was that, when having received 
from Dido so much solace, as will be discoursed 
of below in the seventh treatise, and experiencing 
such delight with her, he departed to follow a 
path honourable and praiseworthy and fruitful, 
as [jo] is written in the fourth of the Mneid. 


courage, How great spurring was that when the same 
kindness, ^neas hardened himself to enter alone with the 
cour esy gy^jj jjj|.q jjgj] ^^^j search for the soul of his 
■ father Anchises, in the face of so many perils, as 
is shown in the sixth of the aforesaid story ! 
Whereby it appears how in manhood it behoves 
us for our perfection to be temperate and brave. 
And this is what goodness of nature accom- 
plishes and shows forth, as the [So] text 
expressly says. 
Hi. Moreover, it is needful to this period of life, 
for its perfection, to be loving ; because it be- 
hoves it to look back and fore, as being itself in 
the meridian circle. It behoves it to love its 
elders, from whom it has received being and 
sustenance and instruction, so that it may not 
seem ungrateful. It behoves it to love its 
juniors, so that, loving them, it may give them 
[903 of its benefits, by whom then in its lessening 
prosperity it may itself be sustained and honoured. 
And this love the above-named poet shows that 
jEneas had in the above-mentioned fifth book, 
when he left the aged Trojans in Sicily, com- 
mending them to Acestes, and released them 
from their toils ; and when in that place he 
instructed Ascanius, his son, with the other 
young people, in tournament. Whereby it 
appears that love [lOo] is necessary to this 
period, as the text says. 
iv. Further, it is needful to this period of life to 
be courteous, for although it becomes every age 
to be of courteous ways, yet to this age, above 
all, it is needful to practise them, since, on the 
other hand, age cannot so do, because of its 
gravity and the severity which is demanded of 


it ; and so still more in decrepitude. And this and 
courtesy [i loj that most lofty poet shows ^neas ^°^f-^^J' 
to have had in the above said sixth book, where ^n^g 
he says that iEneas, king as he was, to honour 
the corpse of the dead Misenus (who had been 
Hector's trumpeter, and had afterwards com- 
mended himself to him), girt himself and took 
the axe to help to hew the wood for the fire 
which was to burn the dead body, as was their 
custom. Wherefore it is clear that this quality is 
required in manhood: and therefore (^I20j the 
noble soul displays it in this age, as was said. 

Further, it is needful to this period of life to be v. 
loyal. Loyalty is the following out and putting 
into action of that which the laws dictate ; and 
this is especially fitting for one in the prime of 
life ; for the adolescent, as has been said, because 
of his minority, deserves pardon on easy terms ; 
the senior ought to be just, in virtue of his wider 
experience, and should follow the laws only 
[130] in so far as his own right judgment and 
the law are one and the same thing ; and he 
should follow his own just mind, as it were, 
without any law ; which the man in his prime 
cannot do. And let it suffice that he observes 
the law and delights in observing it, just as the 
above said poet in the above said fifth book 
declares that ^neas did when he instituted 
the games in Sicily, on the anniversary of his 
father's death ; for he loyally [140^ gave to each 
one of the victors what he promised for the 
victory, as was their ancient usage, which was 
their law. Wherefore it is manifest that to this 
period of life loyalty, courtesy, love, courage and 
temperance are needful, as says the text which 


in man- we are now discussing ; and therefore the noble 
hood goul reveals them all. 

40. Compare Purgatorio, XVII. 97-99. 

45, Compare Purgatorio, VI. 88-99. 

47. /rr/to^/^, in the physiological sense of 'answering 
to a stimulus.' 

57, Consciousness of greatness, i.e.,, magnanimita. Com- 
pare IV. 17 : 44, note. The man who is worthy of great 
things, and knows it, will rightly ' take his stand ' at a 
point where it would not be sublime but ridiculous or 
flippant for an ordinary man to do so. Compare the 
quotation from Cicero in De Monorchia, II. 5 : 159-170. 

67. We gather, then, that the seventh treatise would 
have dealt with the ode, Cost nel mio parlar 'voglio esser 
aspro ; in the thirty-sixth line of which Dido is named, 
the only instance of the occurrence of a personal name in 
any undoubtedly authentic ode of Dante's. We may 
perhaps find a clue in this passage to the method in which 
Dante meant to approach his task of allegorising this 
terrible ode. The allegorising of the Mneid, as we may 
see from this passage, involved the degradation of Dido 
into the symbol of the seductive and effeminating passions, 
to desert which was virtue. She was the prototype of the 
Alcinas, the Armidas and the Duessas of the later litera- 
ture. Few heroines indeed have been so deeply wronged ! 

123. The Italian lealtd does not lend itself any more 
easily to this forced etymological interpretation than does 
our ' loyalty.' 

143. Dante, in agreement with modern scholarship, 
regards custom as the primitive form of law. 



[(3") Of the graces that beseem age, to wit (/'.) pru- 
dence, (ti.) justice, (m. ) generosity, and (I'v.) 
affability ; and of Ovid's example of ^acus.] 

We have sufficiently inspected and considered To be a 
the section of the text which sets forth the blessmg 
probity which the noble soul furnishes to man- ° ° ^^^ 
hood, wherefore it seems right to turn to the 
third part which begins : 3°. 

j^nd in old age, 

wherein the text purposes to show those things 

which the noble nature reveals and must have 

in the third period, [loj to wit old age. 

And it says that the noble soul in age is 

prudent, is just, is open-handed, and rejoices to 

tell of the goodness and excellence of others, 

and to hear of it ; that is to say is affable ; i. ii. in. iv. 

and truly these four virtues are most fitting to 

this age. 

And to perceive this be it known that as 
Tully says in that Of Old Age : * Our life has 
a fixed course and a simple path, \j.o~\ that of 
our right nature ; and in every part of our life 
place is given for certain things.' Wherefore, 
just as that is given to adolescence (as said 
above), whereby we may come to perfection 
and maturity, so too is given to manhood that 
perfection and that maturity themselves, so that 
the sweetness of its fruit may be profitable to 
itself and to others ; for, as Aristotle says, 
' man is a civic animal,' [^30] wherefore he is 
required not only to be useful to himself but 


we need also to others. And so we read of Cato 
prudence, that he did not think of himself as born for 
himself, but for his country and for all the 
world. Wherefore, after our own proper per- 
fection, which is acquired in manhood, that 
perfection should also come which enlightens 
not only ourselves but others, and man should 
open out like a rose that can no longer keep 
closed, and should spread abroad the perfume 
which has been generated [40] within ; and this 
should come about in that third period of life 
with which we are dealing. It is fitting, then, 
I. to be prudent, that is wise ; and to be so 
demands a good memory of things formerly 
seen, and good knowledge of things present, and 
good foresight of things to come. And, as the 
Philosopher says in the sixth of the Ethics, ' it 
is impossible for a man to be wise unless he is 
good,' and therefore a man is not to be called 
wise who proceeds by stratagems [_$o~\ and 
deceits, but he is to be called astute ; for as no 
one would call a man who had skill to strike the 
point of a knife into the pupil of the eye wise, so 
neither is he to be called wise who hath skill 
to do some evil thing, doing the which he 
ever injureth himself ere he injures another. If 
it be rightly considered, from prudence come 
good counsels which lead the man himself and 
others to a right goal of human affairs [60]] and 
doings. And this is that gift which Solomon, 
when he saw himself set to govern the people, 
required of God, as is written in the third book of 
Kings. And a prudent man such as this waiteth 
not till someone saith to him : ' Give me 
counsel ' ; but himself foreseeing, without being 


requested he giveth him counsel, like to the rose justice, 
which not only giveth its perfume to him who 
Cometh to it that he may have it, but also 
to everyone who [70] passeth it by. Here 
some physician or legist might say : ' Then am I 
to carry my counsel and to give it even to those 
that ask it not, and pluck no fruit of my art ? I 
answer as our Lord saith : ' I receive freely if it 
hath been freely given.' I say, then, sir legist, 
that those counsels which have not respect to 
thy art, and which proceed only from that good 
wit which God gave [80] thee (and this is the 
prudence whereof we are now discoursing), thou 
shouldest not sell to the children of him who 
gave it thee. Those which have respect to the 
art which thou hast purchased, these thou mayest 
sell, yet not so but that it is fitting from time to 
time to pay tithes and give to God, that is to those 
poor who have nought left save the divine grace. 

It behoves this period of life also to be just, so it. 
that its judgments and its [90]] authority may be 
a light and a law to others. And because this 
singular virtue, to wit justice, was seen by the 
ancient philosophers to be revealed perfectly in 
this period of life, they committed the guidance 
of the city to those who had reached this age ; and 
therefore the college of the rulers was called the 
Senate. Oh, my wretched, wretched country ! 
What pity for thee constrains me whensoever I 
read, whensoever I write, of aught that hath 
respect to civil [loo^ government ! But since 
justice will be dealt with in the last treatise but 
one of this volume, let it suffice at present to 
have touched this little upon it. 

It is also meet for this period of life to be m. 


liberality generous ; because a thing is most in season 
when it most satisfies the due of its nature ; nor 
can the due of generosity ever be so satisfied as 
at this period of life. For if we would rightly 
consider [^iio]] how Aristotle proceeds in the 
fourth of the Ethics, and Tully in that Of 
Offices, generosity must be in such time and 
place that the generous man injure not either 
himself or others ! Which thing may not be 
without prudence and without justice, which to 
have in perfection by the natural way before 
this age is impossible. Ah ye ill-starred and 
ill-born, who disinherit widows and wards, who 
snatch from the most helpless, [^120]] who rob 
and seize the rights of others, and therefrom 
prepare feasts, make gifts of horses and arms, robes 
and money, wear gorgeous apparel, build mar- 
vellous edifices, and believe yourselves to be 
doing generously ! And what else is this than 
to take the cloth from the altar and cover 
therewith the robber and his table ? No other- 
wise ye tyrants should your presents be scoffed 
at than the robber who should invite his guests 
to his house [[130] and should set upon the 
table the napkin he had stolen from the altar 
with the ecclesiastical signs yet on it, and 
should suppose that no one would perceive 
it. Hearken ye stubborn ones to what Tully 
saith against you in the book Of Offices : 
' Verily there be many who, desiring to be 
conspicuous and famous, take from these to give 
to those, thinking to be held in esteem if they 
make folk wealthy by what means soever. But 
this [1403 is so counter to what ought to be 
that nought is more.' 



Further, it becomes this period of life to be and affa- 
affable, that is, to love to speak of good and to bility, 
hear of it, because it is well to speak good ^ 
on those occasions when it will be hearkened to. ^ 
And this period of life carries a shade of 
authority, whereby it seems that men hearken 
more to it than to any earlier age. And it 
seems that it ought to have more beautiful and 
fair [^1503 news because of its long experience 
of life. Wherefore Tully says in that Of Old 
Age, in the person of the ancient Cato : ' Upon 
me has grown both the desire and the enjoy- 
ment of conversation beyond what was my 

And that all these four things are fitting 
to this period of life, Ovid instructs us in the 
seventh of the Metamorphoses, in the story 
where he tells how Cephalus of Athens came to 
King ^acus for help in the war [^160] that 
Athens was waging with Crete. He shows 
that the old -/Eacus was prudent, when, having 
lost by pestilence, through corruption of the air, 
almost all his people, he wisely had recourse to 
God, and asked from him the restoration of his 
dead people ; and by his wit, which held him to 
patience and made him turn to God, his people 
were restored to him greater than before. He 
shows that he was just when he says that he 
made partition [lyoj to his new people and 
divided his desolated land. He shows that he 
was generous when he said to Cephalus, after 
his request for aid : * O Athens, ask not help 
from me, but take it ; and consider not the 
forces which this island holds, and all this state 
of my possessions, yours doubtfully. We lack 



in old not power, nay, we have superfluity, and the foe 
*S^ is mighty ; and the time for giving is right 
prosperous and []i8o3 without excuse.' Ah, 
how many things are to note in this answer ! 
But for one with a good understanding it is 
enough that it be set down here, just as Ovid sets 
it down. He shows that he was affable when 
he carefully tells and rehearses to Cephalus in a 
long discourse the story of the plague of his 
people and the restoration of them. Wherefore 
it is manifest enough that four things are suit- 
able to this age ; because the noble nature 
manifests them in it, [190]) as the text says. 
And that the example which has been spoken of 
may be the more memorable, he says of King 
^acus that he was the father of Telamon, ot 
Peleus and of Phocus, of which Telamon 
sprang Ajax, and of Peleus, Achilles. 

75. Matthew^ x. 8. Gratis accepisris, gratis date. 
'Freely ye have received, freely give.' It is difficult to 
see why Dante changed the form of words. If the read- 
ing is correct, he must mean, * I ought to receive for 
nothing, from you, what it cost you nothing to get ' ; but 
the editors very reasonably suspect the text. 

10 1. The fourteenth treatise, the last but one, was to 
have dealt with justice (compare I. 12 : 86-88), and was 
algo to have contained a discourse on the subject of 
Allegory (II. i : 34-36). This combination identifies the 
beautiful Ode XIII., Tre define intorno al cor mi son •venute, 
as its text with absolute certainty. 

173 ff. The passage is from Ovid's Metamorphoses, VII. 
507-511. Dante's text differs in several minor points 
from ours, but in the last line he must either have studied 
a very corrupt manuscript or have made serious errors in 
expanding the contractions. It is difficult to reconstruct 
any line which will scan and will at the same time 
explain his translation. 



[Of what beseems the (4°) age of decrepitude, viz., 
{i. ) to return to God as to a haven, and {it. ) to 
look back upon all the past seasons of life and 
bless them for what they have brought. Of 
Lucan's allegory of Marcia and Cato.] 

After the section now discoursed upon, we are We 
to proceed to the last, that is to the one which should 
begins : return to 

-ri ■ I r 1 /•!•/■ Go^ with 

/ ben tn the Jour th term of Itje ; blessings 

whereby the text purposes to manifest that which 
the noble soul doth in her last age, to wit 4°- 
decrepitude. And it says that she does two »• '"'. 
things ; the one that she returns to God, as to 
that port whence she departed when she came 
to enter upon the [10] sea of this life; the 
other is that she blesseth the voyage that she 
hath made, because it hath been straight and 
good and without the bitterness of tempest. 
And here be it known that, as Tully says in 
that Of Old Jge, • natural death is as it were our t. 
port and rest from our long voyage.' And even 
as the good sailor, when he draws near to the 
port, lowers his sails, and gently with mild 
impulse enters into it, so [203 ought we to 
lower the sails of our worldly activities and 
turn to God with all our purpose and heart ; so 
that we may come to that port with all sweet- 
ness and with all peace. And herein we have - 
a noteworthy instruction in gentleness from our 
own nature, for at such an age death is not pain 
nor any bitterness ; but as a ripe apple, lightly 
and without violence, drops from its branch. 


in de- so [30] our soul without pain parts from the 
crepitude, body wherein it has been. Whence Aristotle 
in that Of Touth and Age says that ' the death 
that takes place in old age hath no sadness.' 
And as to him who cometh from a long journey, 
ere he enter the gate of his city, the citizens 
thereof come forth to meet him ; so come, and 
so should come, to meet the noble soul those 
citizens of the eternal life. And this [403 
they bring about by their good deeds and 
contemplations ; for when the soul has already 
been surrendered to God and abstracted from 
the affairs and thoughts of the world, it seems 
to see those whom it believes to be with God. 
Hearken what Tully says in the person of the 
ancient Cato : ' I uplift myself in the utmost 
yearning to see your fathers whom I loved ; 
and not only them, but also those of whom I 
have heard speak.' The noble soul then sur- 
renders herself to God in this period, [50] and 
awaits the end of this life with great longing, 
and seems to herself to be leaving an hostel and 
• returning to her own house, seems to be coming 
back from a journey and returning to her own 
city, seems to be coming from the sea and 
returning to the port. Oh, wretched and vile, 
who with hoisted sails rush into this port, and 
where ye ought to rest shatter yourselves in the 
fall strength of the wind and lose yourselves in 
the very place to which ye have made so long a 
voyage ! Verily the knight Lancelot [60] would 
not enter there with hoisted sails ; nor our most 
noble Latin, Guido of Montefeltro. In truth, 
these noble ones lowered the sails of the activities 
of the world j for in their advanced age they gave 


themselves to religious orders, putting aside as did 
every mundane delight and activity. And no 
one can excuse himself by the tie of marriage 
which holds him in advanced age ; for not only 
they turn to a religious order who liken them- 
selves in garment and in life to St. Benedict and 
to St. Augustine, and to St. [^70] Francis and 
to St. Dominic, but to a good and true religious 
order may they also turn who abide in matri- 
mony, for God would have nought of us in 
religion save the heart. And therefore St. 
Paul says to the Romans : * Not he is a Jew 
who is so outwardly ; nor is that circumcision 
which is manifested in the flesh ; but he is a 
Jew who is so in secret, and circumcision of the 
heart, in spirit, not in [[So] letter, is circum- 
cision ; the praise whereof is not from men but 
from God.' 

And further, the noble soul at this age blesses it. 
the times past, and well may she bless them ; 
because turning back her memory through them 
she is mindful of her righteous doings, without 
which she could not come to the port whereto 
she is drawing nigh, with so great wealth nor 
with so great gain. And she doth as the good 
merchant [90] when, as he draweth nigh to 
the port, he examineth how he hath prospered, 
and saith : « Had I not passed by such a way, 
this treasure I should not have ; nor should I 
have wherewith to rejoice in my city to which 
I am drawing nigh ' ; and therefore he blesseth 
the way that he hath made. 

And that these two things are suitable for this 
period of life, that great poet Lucan figures forth 
to us in the second of his Pharsalia, [[lOo] 


Marcia when he says that Marcia returned to Cato and 
begged him and prayed that he would take her 
back again. By which Marcia is understood 
the noble soul. And we may thus convert the 
figure to the truth : Marcia was a virgin, and 
in that state she signifies adolescence ; then she 
came to Cato, and in that state she signifies 
manhood ; then she produced sons, by which 
are signified those virtues which are declared 
above to be fitting in the prime of life ; and she de- 
parted from [[i 103 Cato and married Hortensius, 
whereby it is signified that the prime of life 
departs and old age comes. She bore sons also 
to him, whereby are signified the virtues which are 
declared above to be fitting in old age. Hor- 
tensius died, whereby is signified the end of old 
age ; and Marcia having become a widow (by 
which widowhood is signified decrepitude), 
returned at the beginning of her widowhood to 
Cato, whereby is signified that the [120] noble 
soul at the beginning of decrepitude returns to 
God. And what earthly man was more worthy 
to signify God than Cato ? Verily none. 

And what says Marcia to Cato ? ' Whilst 
blood was in me,' that is prime manhood, 
' whilst the maternal power was in me,' that is 
to say age, for she is in truth the mother of 
those other virtues, as has been said above. * I,' 
says Marcia, ' did and accomplished [130] all 
thy commands,' that is to say that the soul 
abode with constancy in the civic activities. 
She says: 'I took two, husbands,' that is, 'I 
have been fruitful in two ages.' * Now,' says 
Marcia, 'that my womb is wearied and I am 
exhausted for bearing offspring, to thee I return. 


no longer being such as may be given to another to Cato 
spouse,' that is to say, that the noble soul, 
knowing that she has no longer any womb for 
fruit, that is to say when her members feel that 
they have come to feeble C140J state, returns 
to God who hath no need of the corporeal 
members. And Marcia says : ' Grant me the 
treaties of the ancient couch ; give me the name 
only of marriage,' which is to say that the noble 
soul saith to God : ' Now give me repose, O 
my Lord.' She saith : ' Grant me at least that 
in this so much life as remaineth I may be called 
thine.' And Marcia saith : ' Two reasons move 
me to say this : the one is that it may be said 
after me [^1503 that I died as Cato's wife; the 
other is that it may be said after me that thou 
didst not expel me, but didst give me in marriage 
of good heart.' By these two reasons the noble 
soul is moved, and desireth to depart from this 
life as the spouse of God, and desireth to show 
that God was gracious to his creature. Oh 
wretched and ill-born who prefer to depart 
from this life under the title of Horiensius 
rather than of Cato, with whose name C160J 
it is well to end that which it behoves us to 
discourse concerning the tokens of nobility, 
because in him nobility itself shows all its tokens 
in every age. 

64. The Italian religione means a religious order. 
Compare the current expression, *a religious,' meaning 
a member of a religious order. 

151-153. The whole passage paraphrased here occurs 
in Lucan's Pharsalia, II. 338-345. Cato, in accordance 
with the facility of divorce that characterised Roman law 
and manners, had conceded his wife .Marcia to his friend 


Hortensius. After the latter's death Marcia asked Cato 
to take her back, that she might die as Cato's wife. 

Nee dubium longo quaeratur in aeuo ■" 

Mutarim primas expuha an tradita taedas. 

She would not have posterity discuss whether it was for 
some fault of hers, rather than out of friendship to Hor- 
tensius, that Cato had given her in marriage to the latter. 


[At the close of his exposition the author deals with 
two points that may rise: — (i.) May not the 
descendant of a noble family, though himself 
base, yet serve as a useful memorial of his an- 
cestry? Which question is answered in the 
negative. And (ii.) in what secondary sense may 
a family, which, not being an individual, cannot 
have a soul nor virtue, yet be called noble ?] 

Two Now that the text has been expounded, as also 
questions those tokens which appear in the noble man in 
every age whereby he may be recognised, and 
without which he may not be, any more than the 
sun can be without light, or fire without heat, 
the text at the end of all that has been related 
about nobleness cries out against the people, 
and saith : ' O, ye who have hearkened to me, 

See noiv how many be thus \_'i-0~] deceived,^ 

to wit, these who believe themselves to be noble 
because they are of famous and ancient genera- 
tions and descended from excellent fathers, 
though they have no nobleness in themselves, 
[i. ii. And here rise two questions, whereto at the end 
of this treatise it is well to give heed. 


Sir Manfred da Vico, who has now the titles De- 
of prastor and prefect, might say : ' Whatsoever generate 
I may be, I call to men's minds and represent o^spr"!? 
my ancestors, who by [20] their nobleness earned 
the office of the prefecture, earned to set their 
hands to the crowning of the empire, earned 
the reception of the rose from the Roman pastor. 
Therefore I ought to receive honour and rever- 
ence from the people.' And this is the one 

The other is that he of San Nazzaro of Pavia, 
and he of the Piscicelli of Naples might say : 
* If nobleness were that which hath been said, to 
wit a divine seed graciously placed in the human 
[^30] soul, and if no progeny or race hath a soul, 
as is manifest, no progeny or race could be 
called noble ; and this is counter to the opinion 
of those who say that our families are the most 
noble in their cities.' 

To the first question Juvefnal answers in the i.] 
eighth Satire, when he begins as it were to 
exclaim : 'What avail these [40]] honours which 
remain from them of old, if he who would fain 
mantle him therein liveth ill ? if he who dis- 
courses of his ancestors and sets forth their great 
and marvellous deeds, is intent on wretched and 
vile doings ? And yet ' (says the same satirist), 
who will call him noble because of his good 
family, who is himself unworthy of his good 
family ? This is no other than to call a dwarf 
a giant.' C5°D Then afterwards he says to 
such an one : ' Between thee and a statue, made 
in memory of thy ancestor, there is nought to 
choose, save that its head is marble and thine is 
alive.' But herein (speaking with submission) 


of worthy I agree not with the poet, for the statue of 
forebears marble or of wood or of metal, left as a 
memorial of some worthy man, difFereth much 
in its effect from his unworthy descendant. 
Because the statue [|6o3 ever confirms the good 
opinion in those who have heard the fair fame 
of him whose the statue is, and begets it in 
others ; whereas the worthless son or grandson 
does just the reverse ; for he weakens the opinion 
of those who have heard good of his ancestry ; 
for a thought will come to them and say : ' It 
may not be that all which is said of this man's 
ancestors is true, since we see such a plant [^yoj 
of their sowing.' Wherefore he should receive 
not honour but dishonour who beareth ill-witness 
of the good. And therefore Tully saith that 
* the son of the worthy man should strive to bear 
good witness to his father.' Wherefore, in my 
judgment, even as he who defames a worthy 
man deserves to be shunned by folk, and not 
hearkened to, so the vile man, descended from 
worthy ancestors, deserves to be [^So] expelled 
by all. And the good man should shut his eyes 
so as not to look upon this reproach which 
reproaches the goodness that remains only in 
memory. And let this suffice for the present 
for the first question which was mooted, 
[ii. To the second question may be answered that 
a family in itself hath not a soul ; and yet it is 
true that it is called noble, and, in a certain sense, 
so it is. Wherefore be it known that every [^90]] 
whole is composed of its parts ; and there are 
some wholes which have one simple essence 
together with their parts ; as in one man there is 
one essence of the whole and of each of its 


parts ; and what is said to exist in the part is Noble 
said in the same sense to exist in the whole, families 
There are other wholes which have not a 
common essence with their parts, like a heap of 
grain ; the essence of such is secondary, result- 
ing from many grains which [^100^ have true and 
primary essence in themselves. And the qualities 
of the parts are said to exist in such a whole, in 
the same secondary sense in which it has an 
essence. Wherefore a heap is called white 
because the grains whereof the heap is composed 
are white. In truth this whiteness is rather in 
the grains, primarily, and comes out as the result 
in the whole heap secondarily ; and thus in a 
secondary sense it may be called white. And 
it is in this sense that a family or a [[iio^ race 
can be called noble. Wherefore be it known 
that as the white grains must preponderate to 
make a white heap, so to make a noble race the 
noble persons must preponderate in it. I say pre- 
ponderate, that is, exceed in number, so that 
their goodness by its fame may overshadow and 
conceal the contrary which is in it. And just 
as from a white heap of grain you might remove 
the wheat grain by grain, and grain by grain 
[]i2o]] substitute red millet till the whole heap 
at last would change its colour, so out of a noble 
race the good might die one by one, and worth- 
less be born into it until it should change its 
name, and should not deserve to be called noble 
but base. And let this suffice as answer to the 
second question. 

14. Compare IV. i: 62-65, '""'^• 

23. The'rose. Leo IX. (1049-1054 a.d.) introduced 
the custom of blessing a (golden) rose on Palm Sunday 


and sending it as a mark of favour to some city, church, 
or distinguished personage (Didron). 

89 f. There are wholes which have an independent 
existence, such as the body. If I have a pain in my 
hand I have a pain in my body, and the hand is not 
properly a hand, and cannot perform the functions of 
such, unless it is part of the body. But there are other 
wholes which are mere aggregates, and have no existence 
of their own except in a secondary sense. 


[(f) The tornata. And how nobleness is beloved of 

The As is set forth above in the third chapter of this 
tornata treatise, this ode has three chief parts ; where- 
fore, since two of them have been discoursed 
upon, whereof the first begins in the aforesaid 
chapter and the second in the sixteenth (so that 
the first is completed in thirteen and the second 
in fourteen chapters, not counting the proem of 
the treatise on the ode, which is comprised in 
[]io] two chapters), we are now in this thirtieth 
c, and last chapter to discuss briefly the third chief 
division, which was composed as the tornata of 
this ode, for a kind of adornment, and which 
begins : 

Against the erring ones take thou thy ivay^ 
my ode. 

And here, to begin with, be it known that every 
good workman on the completion of his work 
should ennoble and beautify it as much as he may, 
that it may leave {20] his hands the more noted 


and the more precious. And this it is my purpose Noble- 
to do in this section, not that I am a good work- oess the 
man, but that I aspire after being such. I say then : *"®°" 

Against the erring ones., and the rest. 

This * Against the erring ones,' etc., is a whole 
section, and it is the name of this ode, chosen 
after the example of the good brother Thomas 
of Aquino, who gave the name Against the [[30]] 
Gentiles to a book of his which he made to the 
confusion of all those who depart from our faith. 
I say then ' take thou thy way ' as though I 
should say : ' thou art now complete, and it is 
time no longer to stand still, but to go, for thy 
emprise is great.' 

^nd <when thou shalt be in the region 

where our lady is, 

tell her thy business. Where, be it noted, that 
(as saith our Lord) pearls must not be cast before 
swine, because it does them no good and is 
loss C403 to the pearls ; and (as saith the poet, 
^sop in the first Fable) a grain of corn is more 
profit to a cock than a pearl, and therefore he 
leaves the one and picks up the other. And, 
considering this, I caution and command the 
ode to reveal its business where this lady, to wit 
philosophy, shall be found. And there shall 
this most noble lady be found where her treasure- 
house is to be found, to wit the soul [50] wherein 
she harbours. And this philosophy not only 
harbours in the sages, but also, as was shown 
above in another treatise, wherever the love of 
her harbours. And to such I tell my ode to 
reveal its business, because to them its teaching 


ofphilo-will be profitable, and by them it will be re- 
sophy ceived. 

And I say to it : Declare to this lady : 

I go discoursing of a friend of thine . 

Truly [60] nobility is a friend of hers, for so 
much doth the one love the other that noble- 
ness ever demands her, and philosophy turns not 
her most sweet regards in any other direction. 
Oh how great and beauteous adornment is this 
which at the end of this ode is given to her, 
calling her the friend of her whose true abode is 
in the most secret place of the divine mind ! 

40. This story is given in the Fahulae Aesop'iae of 
Phaedrus, III. xii. 

52 f. In another treatise. See III. 1 1, especially lines 
41-44 and 122-124. 




No device can make it easy to follow the 
intricate system of divisions and sub-divisions, 
broken by digressions, which characterises the 
Convivio. But it is hoped that the marginal 
letters and numbers introduced into this edition 
may make it possible. 

Perhaps greater consistency might have been 
observed in these marginalia, but the editor 
hopes that the inconsistencies may have facili- 
tated some degree of simplification. 

Chapter I. is introductory, and has its own The First 
(quite simple) system of divisions and cross Treatise 

/ internal 

Hindrances are ' 

' bodily defects 

(to be pitied) 

moral defects 

(to be condemned) 

' pressure of domestic and 
public duties 
(genuine and to be pitied) 

lack of opportunity of 

(a pretext, and to be con- 

The invitation to the banquet would be ex- 
tended in vain to those suffering (whether by 
their own fault or not) from internal defect ; 
but is given to all those (whether free from 

external • 


blame or not) whom external necessity or 
contracted sloth has kept from the feast of 

In Chapters II. -XIII. (i. ii. . . .) are sub- 
ordinate to (a, ^ • . •)> these to {a^b . . .)> 
and these to (I., II.). 

The main division is into (I.) the apology for 
the contents of the work, beginning on p. 9, 
and (II,) the apology for the language in which 
it is written, p. 22. 

The subdivisions offer no difficulty, but it may 
be noted that, under (II.), the divisions (3) on 
zealous generosity, p. 36, and {c) on the author's 
love of his native language, p. 44, run in two 
parallel sections each, indicated by <5 1,(^2, and 
c \,cz, each with its subsections. 

If the reader likes to work out the whole of 
this system In tabular form (after the fashion 
of the analysis of Chapter I. above), he will 
find that it throws much light on Dante's 
ways of working and thinking, and will give 
him a very clear idea of the articulation of the 
whole of the Convivio. 

The The divisions of Chapter I. explain them- 
Second selves. The marginal figures and letters do not 
Treatise conform to the system followed in the rest of 
the treatise. 

In Chapters 1 1.- XII., dealing with the literal 
interpretation of the ode, small Roman numerals 
(i., ii. . . .) are subordinate to Greek letters 
(a, 13 . . .), Greek letters to Italics {a,b.. .), 
and Italics to large Roman numerals (I., 


The main division is into (I.) the invoca- 


tion, beginning on p. 69 ; (II.), the conflict, p, 
93, and (III.), the tornata, p. 108. 

The invocation (I.) embraces (i) the treat- 
ment of the heavens, p. 70, and (a) the treat- 
ment of the movers of the heavens, p. 77 ; (i) 
preceding (a), and each having subdivisions. 

The conflict (II.) deals with (a) the conflict- 
ing parties, p. 93, namely (a), the soul, p. 94, 
and (/3) the new spirit of love, p. 95 ; and (i) 
the conflicting pleas, p. 96, namely (a) the soul's 
plea, p. 1 01, and (13) the spirit's plea, p. 104. 

In Chapters XIII.-XVI., dealing with the 
allegorical interpretation, (/., //.) correspond to 
(I., II.), and (a, b) to {a, b). The division is 
not much elaborated. (/,) begins on p. no, 
and (//.) on p. 131. 

The system is the same as that of the second The 
treatise. ^^^^. 

After a short introduction (i., ii., iii.) we have '"^*"^ 
the main division into (I.) proem, p. 141, (II.) 
praise of my lady philosophy, p. 157, and 
(III.) exj lanation of a seeming contradiction, 

P- 185- 

Each of these divisions is subdivided {a, 
b . . .), but in (I.), before we come to (a), 
p. 151, we have to consider (i.) love, p. 142, 
(ii.) the mind, p. 144, and (iii.) degrees of love, 
p. 148. 

The reader is to note, therefore, that on the 
margins of this treatise (i., ii., iii.) twice appear 
in a prefatory or parenthetical capacity, and not 
as subordinate to (ct, /?.. .). 

The allegorical treatment follows the literal. 
(/.) begins on p. 202 and (//.) on p. 203. 



The In this treatise (/'°., M°. . . .) are subordinate to 

Fourth (/.^i/. , , .),these to (i°, 2° . , .), these to (i., 

irea se jj^ ^ ^ .), these, as in the second and third treatises, 

to (a, /3 . . ,), these to {a, b . , .), and these to 

The main division is into (I.) the proem, 
p. 233, and (II.) the treatise, p. 238. 

But certain portions of the work (pp. 241-257, 
263-273, 280-296, 330-340, 376-379), being 
parenthetical or supplementary or running parallel 
to the main scheme, have been treated apart, on 
systems that explain themselves, the marginal 
indices being clamped in a bracket ([). 

The proem need not be further analysed here. 
The treatise (II.) is divided into (a) the ex- 
amination of false opinions, p. 239 ; {b) the 
elaboration of the true opinion, p. 309; and (c) 
p; the tornata, p. 380. 

{a) falls into (a) the statement, p. 239, and 
((8) the refutation, p. 276 ; (irregularly antici- 
pated, for reasons given, on p. 259). 

(a) needs no further analysis. 

(/3) the refutation falls into the treatment 
(i.) of riches, p. 277, and (ii.) of 
time, p. 298 ; (ii.) is not further 
divided, but (i.) falls into successive 
divisions and subdivisions that explain 

(b), p. 309, the elaboration of the true 
theory, falls into the treatment (a) of the 
nature, p. 310, and (j8) of the manifestations, 
p. 342, of nobleness. Of these — 

(a) resolves itself into (i.) preliminary 


inquiries (1°, 2°), p. 310, and (ii.), 
the definition itself, p. 313. But 
ttiis (ii.) again falls into (1°) certain 
reflections on the virtues (/'., it., Hi.), 
p. 314, and (2°) the direct examina- 
tion of nobleness (/., ii.), p. 321. 
(/3) The manifestations of nobleness, p. 
342, are treated as (i.) general, 
p. 342, and (ii.) specific to the 
several ages, p. 342, which latter 
treatment is subdivided, under four 
heads (1°, 2°, 3°, 4°), into special 
graces (/., ii. . . .), and, in one 
case, p. 356, into varieties 1°., 
ii°. . . .). 

(c) needs no special analysis. 

By expanding this note after the models on 
p. 383, and pp. 443, 444, the reader can present 
to his eye the whole material of the fourth 
treatise, apart from parentheses, in tabular form. 


A line for line translation of the eleven odes, on 
which we assume (see p. 7) that the eleven unwritten 
books of the Cotfvivio would have commented, here 
follows. It is accompanied by a few short notes ; but 
they are no more than hints, and the student will be left 
very much to his own resources in studying these often 
difficult poems. An adequate commentary would be 
beyond the scope of this work. 

The punctuation is simplified as far as possible, in 
order to make the commas, when introduced, helpful 
as a grammatical commentary. 

My friend Mr. Edmund Gardner has, with great 
generosity, supplied me with a number of MS. readings 
which I have adopted (often silently) in preference to 
those of the printed texts. I can only hope that students 
who observe them will feel a quickened interest in Mr. 
Gardner's long-projected edition of the Canzoni, with 
translation and commentary, which, it is to be hoped, 
will not be much longer delayed. 


[? Text of the projected fifth treatise.] 
Amor che mtiovi tua virtu dal cielo. 

Love who dost launch thy power from the heaven, as 

doth the sun his splendour, for there his worth is appre- 

hended most where his ray most nobility encounters ; 

And as he puts to flight darkness and chill, so, 

lofty Sire, dost thou drive baseness from the heart of 

men, nor can wrath make long stand against thee : 


From thee must every blessing needs arise 
For which the whole world travaileth : without thee 


perishes all potency in us of doing well ; ^ e'en as 

a painting in a darksome place, which may not mani- 

fest itself nor give delight of colour nor of art. [15] 

Upon my heart thy light doth ever strike as on a 

star the ray,* since when my soul became the hand- 

maiden of thy power at the first : 

Whence hath its life a longing that leadeth me with 

its persuasive speech to gaze again upon each beauteous 

thing with more delight in measure as 'tis winsome.* 

By power of this my gaze, into my mind 

A damsel has entered who has captured me ; and in 

flame has kindled me as water by its clearness kindles 

flame : * because, when she approached, those rays of 

thine wherewith thou dost make me glow all 

rose up in her eyes. [30] 

Even as in her being she is beauteous, and noble in 

her features* and amorous, so does imagination, rest- 

ing not, adorn her in the mind wherein I bear her : 

Not that it^ is subtle in itself as for a thing so 

lofty, butfrom thy might it hath it that it dares be- 

yond the power nature hath proffered us. [38] 

Her beauty is thy worth's accreditor, 

In that effect may be estimated upon a worthy sub- 

ject, in fashion as the sun is fire's ensign though 

giving not nor reaving from it povfer, but making it, 

in lofty region, reveal more saving force in its effect.' 

. .•^. :-: ••V. [45] 

1 All good is but a latent potency, till evoked by love, and therefore 
without love it perishes. 

2 The sun's ray, from which all stars derive their light. 

3 The heart smitten with love loves all lovely things in the propor- 
tion of their love-worthiness. 

•* When a glass sphere, filled with water, is used as a burning 

5 Italian, a^//= features, facial expression, attitude, bearing or gestures. 

6 The mind. 

7 The sun does not create the power of fire, but reveals it. So this 
raaid the power of love. 



Then, Sire, of such gentle nature that this 

nobility, which cometh down to us, and all other 

excellence taketh its source from thy loftiness ; 

Have regard unto my life, how hard it is, and take 

pity on it ; for thy burning, by her beauty, mak- 

eth me have at heart excess of anguish. [53] 

Love, of thy sweetness, make her feel 

The great yearning that I have to behold her : nor 

suffer not that she, by glory of her strength,' lead nie 

to death ; for not yet is she aware how she doth 

please, nor how mightily I love her, nor how she 

bears my peace within her eyes. [60] 


Great honour shall it be to thee if thou aid me, and 

rich gift to me, in measure as I know full well, who 

find me at such point where I may not defend my 


For my spirits ^ are assailed by such an one that I 

deem not, save I have succour through thy 

will, that they can keep their stand and perish not. 

And thy potency, moreover, shall be felt 

By this fair lady, who is worthy of it ; for it 

seems as it were fitting to give to her great store of 

every good, as unto one born into the world to 

hold lordship over the mind of all who look upon 

her. [75] 


[? Text of the projected sixth treatise.] 

lo sento si d'amor la gran possanza. 

So do I feel the mighty power of love that I may 

not endure long to support it ; which is grievous to 



. 1 Glory of her sh-ength. Italian, giovanezza. 

2 I.e., my vital powers. 

3 Because if it kills him he will no longer be able to serve his 


For so does his might keep growing and mine I feel 

to fail so, that hour by hour I am enfeebled from my 

wont. [6] 

I say not that love works more than I desire, ..A 

For if he wrought all that my will demands such 

power as nature gave me would support it not, in that it 

is finite : and this it is whence I pluck sorrow, that 

power will not keep faith with purpose, but if from 

goodwill springs reward, I demand it, for furtherance 

of life, of those eyes whose beauteous splen- 

dour brings comfort whensoe'er I taste of pain. [16] 

The rays of these beauteous eyes enter into mine 

enamoured ones, and bring the sweet whenas I taste 

the bitter : 

And they know the way, even as such who erst have 

traversed it ; and they know, the spot where they left 

love. [22] 

• /. 
When through my eyes they led him in. , '^-^ 

Wherefore when they turn on me they do mercy, and 

to her whose I am they purchase loss when they hide 

themselves from me, who so love her that only to serve 

her do I hold myself dear : and my musings, compact 

merely of love, as to their goal hie them to her 

service : wherefore to perform the same I long so 

greatly that did I believe I might accomplish it by 

fleeing her it were an easy thing to do ; but I know 

that I should die thereby. [32] 


'Tis very love indeed that hath captured me iand 

mightily indeed he grips me since I would do^ t^at 

which I say for him. .• i. 'r 

For no love is of such weight as is that which or 

death makes a man taste for good service of another : 

And in such will was I confirmed 
So soon as the great longing which I feel was born, 

by virtue of the pleasure which gathers from all good 


in the fair countenance. A servant am I, and when I 

bethink me whose, and what she is, I am utterly 

content ; for a man may serve well against good 

pleasure ; ^ and if unripeness bereaves me of grace, I 

look to the time which shall grasp more reason ; if but 

my life shall hold her own so long. [48] 

IV R : 

When I muse upon a noble longing,' bbrii' ■* of 

that great longing which I bear, that draws all my 

powers to well-doing, 

Meseems that I am overpayed with grace ; and in 

like manner more than wrongly meseems I bear the 

name of servant ; [54] 

So, before her eyes, of pleasure 

Is serving made, thanks to a not-my ^ goodness. Yet 

since I hold me close knit to truth needs must such 

longing count as service ; because if I make haste to 

be of worth I ponder not so much on what concerns 

myself as her, who hath me in her power ; for I 

so do in order that her cause may be more prized ; * and 

I am wholly hers ; so do I esteem myself because love 

hath made me worthy of so great honour. [64] 


Other than love could not have made me such as to 

be, worthily, aught that pertains to her, the unen- 


Who takes her stand as a lady whom concerns not the 

amorous mind that without her may not pass an hour. 

Not yet so many times have I beheld her 

But that new beauty I may find in her ; whence love 

makes grow his greatness in me in measure as new 

joy is added. Wherefore it comes about that so long 

do I abide in one state, and so long doth love lime 

1 I.e., against the good pleasure of her whom he serves. 
■- The desire himself to become more worthy. 
3 A goodness not mine, but hers, my lady's. 

* My very desire to be more worthy is itself a service rendered to 
her, since it is only for her credit that I cherish it. 


me with one torment and with one sweetness, as 

lasts that season that so often goads me which endures 

from when I lose the sight of her until the time when 

it be won again.* [80] 


My beauteous ode, if thou be like to me, thou wilt 

not be scornful so much as cometh ^ to thy excellence : 

Wherefore I pray thee that thou ply thy wit, my 

sweet amorous one, in culling mode and way that shall 

become thee. [86] 

Should cavalier invite thee or arrest, 

E'er thou yield thyself to his pleasure see if thou 

canst make him of thy sect ; and if it may not be, 

straightway abandon him, for the good keeps chamber 

ever with the good. But it chances that one often 

throws himself into a company whence he has nought 

save smirch of evil fame that men proclaim of 

him. With the guilty sojourn not by wit nor art ; for 

never was it wisdom yet to hold their side. [96] 

[Alternative tomato] 

[Ode ! to the three least vicious of our city thou 

shalt take thy way e'er thou go otherwhither : salute 

the two : and see to it that thou try the third, to draw 

him first out of ill company. Tell him the good joins 

not in conflict with the good rather than win emprise 

against the wicked : tell him that he is mad who 

fleeth not, for fear of shame, from madness ; for 

he feareth who hath terror of the evil ; therefore 

fleeing the one healeth the other. ^] 

1 Then he sees new beauties, and his state (both torment and rapture) 

is changed for another. 

2 The lofty meaning of this ode might naturally bring it the pride of 
conscious superiority ; but the humble poet urges it not to presume 
thereon, but carefully to choose its company. 

3 No man fears shame unless, by shameful conduct, he subjects him- 
self to the terror of it. Thus, if we once defy the wickedness of our 
evil associates, we shall find that their taunts have lost their power to 
shame us. The specific allusions of this tornata have never been 

394 ^<JO i THE CONVIVIO Odi 


[Text of the projected seventh treatise.] 
Cost nel luio parlar voglio esser aspro. 


As harsh in my discourse would I fain be as in her 

bearing is that beauteous stone whom, every hour, 

petrify more hardness and more cruel nature : 

And she clothes her person in an adamant such that 

for it, or for that she arrests her, there issues not from 

quiver arrow that can ever catch her naked. ^ [8] 

But she slays ; and it avails not for a man to case him 

Nor to flee from the mortal blows ; for as had 

they wings they light on folk and shatter every 

armour : wherefore, to protect me from her, I have nor 

wit nor power. [13] 


I find no shield she may not shatter for me nor place 

to hide me from her vision ; but as the flower on the 

spray so does she hold the summit of my mind. 

She seems as much to heed my misery as a craft 

does a sea that uplifts no wave : the weight that sinks 

me is such as no rhyme may hold in poise. [21] 

Oh agonising and unpitying file, 

That dumbly scrap'st away my life, how is it that 

thou shrinkest not from gnawing thus my heart, coat 

within coat, as I from telling folk ^^^9 he is that gives 

thee power thereto ? .:,:,/.srV [26] 


For my heart more trembles when I think of her, in 

such region that folk may thither direct their eyes, for 

fear that through should shine my thought externally 

so as to be discovered, 

Than I do at death, who every sense already crunches 

with the teeth of love : which as I muse scorches so 

their "^ powers that their working slackens. [34] 

1 No arrow can ever find an unprotected place ; because she is cased 
in proof, and because she never passively awaits attack or offers herself 
as a mark. 

2 The powers of the senses. 


He has smitten nie to earth and stands over me 

With that same sword wherewith he slaughtered 
Dido, Love to whom I cry and call for grace 

and humbly pray, and he seems set to refuse all grace. 



He, ever and anon, uplifts his hand and defies this 

my weak life, in his perversity ; and, outstretched and 

overthrown, he pins me to the earth, exhausted past a 


Then rise up shrieks within my mind, and the 

blood all scattered through the veins flees running 

towards the heart that summons it, and I lie bleached 

of it. [47] 

He smites me under the left side 

So rudely that the pain re-echoes through my 
heart ; then do I cry : ' Should he uplift one 

other time, death \vill have closed me in e'er down his 

blow descends.' [52] 

So might I see him to the centre cleave the cruel 

one's heart who quarters mine ! Then were no longer 

black to me the death to which I hasten through her 


For she smites as hard in sun as shade this mur- 

derous assassin and robber. Oh me, that she howls 

not for me as I for her in the hot caldron. [60] 

For swiftly would I cry : * I succour thee,' 

And eagerly would do it, e'en as one who upon 

those fair locks that love has crisped and goldened to 

consume me would set my hand and then would sate 

myself. [65] 


Had I seized the fair locks that have become my 

scourge and lash, laying hold of them e'er 

tierce with them would I pass vesper and evening 

bells : 

And would be nor pitiful nor courteous, but were 

rather as the bear taking his sport. And if love 

^3^ Saao ^ THE CONVIVIO Ode 

scourges me therewith ^ I would take more than thou- 

sand vengeance. [73] 

Still on those eyes whence issue forth the sparks 

Which set on flame the heart I carry slain close 

would I gaze and fixedly to avenge me for that he^ 

makes me flee : and then would I render her peace 

with love. [78] 


Ode, take thy way straight to that lady who hath 

smitten me and slain, and who robs from me that for 

which most I thirst, and with an arrow drive thou at 

her heart ; for fair honour is acquired in accomplishing 



[? Text of the projected eighth treatise.] 
Al poco giorno ed al gran cerchio d^ombra.* 


To the short day and the great sweep of shadow * have 

I come, ah me, and to the whitening of the hills when 

colour vanishes from the grass. And my longing 

changes not, for that, its green * so is it barbed in the 

hard stone that speaks and hears as though it were a 

woman. [6] 


And in like fashion ' does this wondrous woman stand 

chill like snow beneath the shadow ; for no more 

moves her than a stone the sweet season that warms 

the hills and brings them back from white to 

green in that it covers them with flowers and grass. [12] 

1 See line 67, but the reading is doubtful. 2 Love. 

3 And since she has scorned Love, the quarrel is his. 

* This poem is a Sestina. The lines of each verse end in omhra. 
colli, erba, verde, pietra, donna; and as to order the endings in each 
stanza are successively those of lines 5, i, s, 2, 4, 3 of the preceding 
stanza. Pietra is used for 'rock,' 'stone' and 'gem,' and erba for 
' grass ' and ' medicinal herb.' But the renderings ' stone ' and ' grass ' 
have been preserved throughout, and the reader will perhaps make 
shift to accept them. 

5 Midwinter. 6 Loses not its vigour. 

7 She is no more melted by spring than the poet is chilled by winter, 
hence she is nuova, i.e., unlike other women, 'wondrous.' 


When on her liead she bears a wreath of grass she 

banishes from our mind each other woman, for the 

waving gold is mingled with the green so beauteous 

that love comes there to sojourn in the shadow, who 

hath riveted me between the little hills more fast by 

far than calcined stone. [18] 

Her beauty has more virtue than a stone, and her 

stroke may not be healed by grass for I have fled o'er 

plains and hills that I might escape from such like 

woman ; and against her light might not give me 

shadow mountain nor ever wall nor leaf of green. [24] 

Erst have I seen her clad in green in such guise 

she would have planted in a stone the love I bear even 

to her very shadow ; wherefore I have wooed her in 

a beauteous field of grass, enamoured as was ever 

woman,^ and girt^ around with loftiest hills. [30] 

But of a truth the rivers would return to the hills or 

e'er this log, sap-full and green, would catch a flame 

(after the wont of fair woman) from me, who would 

endure to sleep on stone all of my life, and go pastur- 

ing on grass, only to look where her garments cast a 

shadow. [36] 

When the hills cast the blackest shadow, under the 

beauteous green the youthful woman makes it 

vanish like a stone hidden by grass. [39] 

1 The gTas.s was love-laden, and the promptings of love issued from 
it as from a beauteous woman. 

2 Agreeing with 'field,' not 'grass,' 



[? Text of the projected ninth treatise.] 
Amor, tu vedi ben che questa donna?- 

Love, thou perceivest that this lady heeds not thy 

power at any season, which of the other fair ones is 

wont to make itself the mistress. And when she per- 

ceived that she was my mistress, by thy ray that on my 

face shines, of all cruelty she made herself the mis- 

tress ; so that it seems not she has the heart of 

woman, but of whatever beast has of love greatest 

chill. For through the warm season and through the 

chill she shows me the semblance of a woman who 

should be made of beauteous stone by hand of such as 

should best carve in stone. [12] 

And I who am unshaken more than rock in obeying 

thee, for the beauty of a woman, bear concealed the 

stroke of the stone with which thou didst smite upon 

me, as on a stone that had offended thee long 

season, in such guise as to reach my heart, where I 

am stone. And never was discovered any stone, or 

by virtue of the sun or by his light which had so 

much of virtue or of light as to have power to aid me 

against that stone so that it should not lead me with 

its chill to where I shall be dead with chill. [24] 

Sire, thou knowest that by freezing chill the water 

turns to crystal rock there under the north, where is 

the great chill ; and the air ever into the element of 

chill 2 there so converts itself that water is mis- 

tress in that region, by reason of the chill. So be- 

1 This composition, which is a modification of the Sestina, is built 
upon the five endings rfo»«a, tempo, Ittce, freddo, pietra. Uniformity 
of rendering would involve too ^eat violence to the usages of our 
language, as well as much obscurity. Donna is rendered by ' lady ' 
'woman' and 'mistress'; tempo by 'season' 'life' and 'time'; luce 
(which is generally a noun, but sometimes a verb) by 'shines' 'light ' 
' eye ' ' sight ' ; freddo always by ' chill ' ; pietra by ' stone ' and ' rock ' 

2 Water. 


fore the semblance chill freezes my blood ever in every 

season : and that thought which most shortens my 

life is all converted into moisture chill, which 

issues then through the midst of the eye by which there 

entered the dispiteous light. [36] 


In her is gathered all beauty's light ; and in like 

fashion all cruelty's chill runs to her heart, whither 

pierces not thy light. Wherefore in my eyes so beau- 

teous does she shine, when I look on her, that 

I see her in the rock or wheresoever else I turn 

my sight. From her eyes there comes to me 

the sweet light that makes me heedless of each 

other woman. Ah would that she were a more pite- 

ous lady towards me, who seek, in darkness and 

in light, only for serving her the place and sea- 

son, nor for aught else desire to live long season. [48] 

Wherefore, O power who art earlier than time, ear- 

lier than motion or than sense-felt light, take pity upon 

me who have such evil season. Enter now into her 

heart, for in truth 'tis season, so that by thee there pass 

forth from her the chill, which suffers me not, like 

others, to have my season : for if there overtake me 

thy strong season^ in this such state, that noble 

rock will see me lying in a narrow stone ^ never 

to raise me till has come the season* when I shall 

see if ever was fair lady in the world like unto this 

bitter lady. [60] 


Ode, I bear in my mind a lady such that, for all she 

be to me of stone, she gives me hardihood where me- 

seems every man is chill ; so that I dare to make for 

this chill * the new thing that through thy form gives 

light which never was conceived in any season. 

1 Spring. _ 2 A sarcophagus. 

3 The resurrection, when all beauty maybe seen and compared. 

^ In celebration of the chill lady. 



fioir.7. [? Text of the projected tenth treatise.] 
ats/ll rf:>i /o son venute al ptinto della rota. 

I HAVE come to the point of the wheel where the 

horizon when the sun declines yields up the twinned 

heaven ; ^ 

And the star of love is severed from us by the shin- 

ing ray that enforks her so athwart as to become her 

veil : [6j 

And that planet that strengthens the cold 

Displays himself to us full on the great circle ^ where- 

from each of the seven ^ casts shortest shadow. And 

yet discharges not one single thought of love wherewith 

I am laden my mind/ which is harder than a 

stone in holding firm the image of stone. [13] 


Rising from the sand of Ethiopia an alien wind dis- 

turbs the air by reason of the sun's sphere that is now 

burning it,'' 

And passes the ocean, whence it leads us store of 

such cloud that if another baffle it not this hemisphere 

it all closes up and seals, [19] 

And then resolves, and falls in white flakes 

Of chill snow and of grievous shower, whence 

the air is saddened all and weeps. And love who 

his nets draws back on high for the beating 

wind abandons not me ; so beauteous is the 

lady, this cruel one, who is given me for my lady. [26] 

Fled is every bird that foUoweth the heat from that 

region of Europe that loses not the seven chill stars 

ever ; * 

1 The sign of the Twins rises atsunset. It is midwinter. 

2 The meridian. 3 Planets. 
* ' My mind ' is the subject of ' discharges.' 

5 It bein^ midsummer there, in the southern hemisphere. 

6 The regions to which the Great Bear never sets. 


And the rest have set a truce upon their voices, no 

more to sound them till the green season, unless 

it be by cause of wailing ; 

And all animals that are wanton 

In their nature, are discharged from love, because 

the chill deadens their spirit. And mine beareth the 

more of love ; for my sweet musings are not reft from 

me, nor are not given me, by revolving season, but 

a lady gives them me of but short season. ° [39] 

Passed their limit have the leaves that the virtue of the 

Ram drew forth to adorn the world, and dead is all the 


No branch conceals itself in green save laurel or pine 

or fir and such other as preserves its verdure : [45] 

And so hard and bitter is the season 

That it slays upon the slopes the flowers that have 

not power to endure the frost. And the amorous 

thorn love, for all that, draws not from out my 

heart ; for I am fixed ever to bear it the while 

I am in life, although I lived for ever. [52] 

The veins pour forth the steaming waters by reason 

of the vapours earth holdeth in her womb, who draweth 

them up aloft from the abyss ; 

Whereby the path that pleased me in fair weather has 

now become a river, and will be, whilst the winter's 

great assault shall last. [58] 

The earth makes one seeming-cemented floor. 

And the dead water turns to glass by reason of the 

cold that locks it from without. And I from my war- 

fare have not, for that, drawn back one step, nor 

would draw back ; for if torment be sweet death must 

surpass all other sweetness. [65] 

1 A youthful lady. 

402 ^iCi ►THECONVIVIO Od£ 


My ode, what now will come of me, in the next sweet 

season of renewal, when rains love upon the earth from 

all the heavens ; if throughout these frosts love is 

in me alone and no other where ? That will coine to me 

which comes to a man of marble if in the maiden, for 

a heart, be marble. [72] 


[? Text of the projected eleventh treatise.] 

E' vi' incresce di vie si durarnente. 


I HAVE ruth for myself so cruelly that as much suffer- 

ing is furnished me by the pity as by the pain : 

Ah me ! that dolorously I feel, against my 

will, the breath of the last sigh gathering [6] 

Within the heart that the beauteous eyes smote 

When love opened them with his own hands to lead 

me to the season that undoes me. Oh me ! how 

gentle, tender and sweet did they lift themselves upon 

me when they began the death that is now so 

grievous to me, saying : ' Our light brings peace.' [14] 


' Peace will we give thy heart, to thee delight,' said 

to my eyes, time was, those of the beauteous lady ; 

But when, of their intelligence, they learned that by 

her might my mind was now wholly reft from me, [20] 

With love's ensigns they wheeled about, 

So that their victorious spectacle was not beheld again 

one single time. Whence is left mourning my soul 

that looked for solace from them : and now all but 

dead doth she^ behold the heart to whom she was 

espoused, and must needs depart love-smitten. [28] 

' The soul, personified throughout the next two stanzas. 


Love-smitten she goes weeping on her way beyond 

this life, she the disconsolate, for love expels her. 

She departs thence^, so grieving that, e'er she 

goes, her maker hearkeneth with pity to her. [34] 

She hath gathered herself, midmost the heart, 

Together with that life which remains quenched only 

at the moment when she wends her way : ^ and there 

utters her complaint of love, who from this world ex- 

pels her : and many a time embraces the spirits 

that still weep, that she loses their company. [42] 

The image of this lady sits yet in my mind where 

love established her, being her guide : 

And it irks her not of the woe which she beholds, nay 

rather is she far more beauteous now than e'er before, 

and far more joyously she seems to smile : [48] 

And lifts her eyes that slay, and cries 
Over her ^ who weeps that she must go : ' Get gone, 

thou wretch, now get thee forth ! ' And this cry is 

caught up by the yearning * which assails me after its 

wont albeit the smart is less ; for greatly hath 

the power of feeling waned, and draweth nearer to the 

end of woes. [56] 

The day whereon she came into the world, as stands 

recorded in memory's book that wanes, 

My infant person sustained a passion never 

known such that I remained fulfilled with terror. [62] 

1 From life. 

2 The soul, having a moment's respite granted by the Creator's pity, 
rallies the flickering powers of life, that shall not be finally quenched 
till the actual moment of her departure. 

3 The soul. 

* The lady herself, love, the image of the lady in the poet's mind, and 
his own yearning towards her, are successively regarded as the power 
that exiles his soul, i.e., that slays him. 


For on my every power a curb was set 

So suddenly that down I fell to earth by reason of a 

light that smote me at the heart. And, if the book errs 

not, the main spirit ^ trembled so mightily that 

well it seemed as though death was reached in this 

world by him. Now he ^ who set this moving has ruth 

of it. [70] 


Then when appeared to me the great beauty which 

so makes me mourn, ye gentle ladies to whom I have 

addressed me, 

That power that has most nobility ^ gazing upon the 

joy perceived right well that its woe was born : [76] 

And recognised the longing that had been created 
By the intent gaze that she * wrought ; so that she 

then said, weeping, to the others : ' ' Here shall arrive, 

to hold vicarious sway, the beauteous form of one 

whom I have seen, who even now strikes me with 

terror, and shall be lady over all of us, so soon 

as it be the pleasure of her eyes. ' [84] 


To you, ye youthful ladies, have I spoken whose 

eyes are adorned with beauties and mind vanquished 

and bemused by love, that commended to you may 

be my rhymes where'er they be. And, before you, I 

pardon my death to that beauteous being who 

has the blame of it to me-wards, and has never pitied. [92] 


[? Text of the projected twelfth treatise.] 

Poscia cK amor del tutto m ''ha lasciato. 

Since love has utterly forsaken me, not at my 

will, for never had I been so joyous, but because 

1 The vital spirit. 2 Love. 

3 The sight. 4 The ' virtue,' viz., sight. 

5 The other powers or spirits of the senses, whose chief and leader she 
had been. 


he had pity so much upon my heart that he 

might not endure to hearken to its wailing, 

I will sing, thus disenamoured, against the 

sin that has arisen in our midst, of counter-call- 

ing such one as is base and irksome by a 

name of worth, to wit of gallantry ; which is a thing so 

fair [12] 

As to make worthy of the mantle 

Imperial him in whom it reigns. A veritable sign 

it is which shows where virtue sojourns ; where- 

fore I am assured that if I well defend it in speech, 

even as I conceive it, love will again do me grace of 

himself. [19] 

There are who by flinging their wealth away think 

to assert a place of worth there where the good take 

stand who after death make their repair within 

the mind of such as have discernment. 

But no pleasure may their largesse give the good, be- 

cause restraining it had been wisdom, and they had 

escaped the loss that is now added to the error of 

them, and of the rest who pass false judgment in their 

deeming. [31] 

Who will not call it fault 

To engulf food and give the mind to wantoning and 

deck him as for sale impending at the fair of 

fools? For the wise prizes not a man after his gar- 

ments which are but alien ornaments, but prizes 

intellect and noble hearts. [38] 


And others are there who, by being quick to 
smile, of understanding swift would be sup- 

posed by such as be deceived seeing them laugh 

at aught which the blind intellect not yet perceives. 

They speak with words elect go their unpleasing 

way content so they be gaped at by the herd : they 

are enamoured never of amorous lady : in their 

discourse they cleave to mere grimace. [50] 


They will not move the foot 

To serve a lady after gallant fashion : but as a 

robber to his theft so do they pace to pluck their 

base delight ; not that, in truth, in women is so 
quenched all gallant bearing that they seem 

animals bereft of intellect. [57] 

Till heaven accord precise with heaven which 

gallantry casts from its way^ (as much as I relate of 

it, and more), I, who have skill of it thanks to a 

gentle one who showed it forth in all her utterance. 

Shall not be silent of it ; for villainy it would ap- 

pear to me so base that I had joined me to its 

enemies.^ Wherefore from this point forth with 

rhyme more subtle will I treat of truth about it : 

but to whom I know not. [69] (88) 

I swear by him 

Whose name is love, and who is full of saving, that 

without doing virtue none may true praise ac- 

quire ; wherefore if that which I am handling ^ be 

good, as each declares, it must be virtue, or with 

virtue linked. [76] (95) 

Not virtue pure and simple is this strayed thing ; for 

it is blamed, renounced, where virtue is demanded 

most, that is in seemly folk of spiritual 

life or garb that holds with study. 

Therefore, if it be praised in a cavalier, it must be 

mingled, caused by more things than one ; wherefore 

this same needs must clothe itself upon one well 

another ill ; but virtue, pure and simple, becomes 

every man. [88] (69) 

1 'Gallantry' is the object of 'casts.' The unpropitious relations of 
the heavens make gallantry swerve out of its orbit. I shall not withhold 
my testimony till better celestial conditions bring it back. 

2 Were I not to protest, my silence would amount to desertion and 

* I.e., 'gallantry,' my theme. 


A joyance is it that consorts 
With love himself: and the completed work, di- 

rected by this third,^ is very gallantry. In being it 

endures even as the sun, to make whose being are 

conjoined the heat and light and his own perfect 

fair form. [95] (76) 

To the great planet she ^ is all resemblant who, from 

the east forward till he conceals himself, with his 

fair rays down pours life and power below into 

material, according as it is disposed. 

Even as she, — scornful of so many folk as bear 

human semblance, but not corresponds their fruit unto 

their leaves, because of ill which they have prac- 

tised,— brings near like blessings to the gentle 

heart; [io7] 

For she is swift to give life 
With fair semblances and new beauteous acts which 

every hour she seems to find : and he has virtue for 

his model who lays hold on her. O false cavaliers, evil 

and guilty, enemies of her who to the pnnce of 

stars is likened ! [il4J 

That man whom she will have both gives and 
takes : and ne'er it irks him : neither the sun to 

give light to the stars nor to take from them help 

in working his effect : but one and the other ^ draws 

delight therein. 

Ne'er is he drawn to wrath by words, but such 

only does he gather as be good: and what things 

he hath to tell are, each and every, fair. For 

his own sake is he held dear and by sage ones 

desired, [126] 

1 Love, which with virtue and joyance (solazzo) under his leadership, 
constitutes gallantry. tv„„ 

2 I.e. , ' gallantry,' hitherto spoken of as it m the translation. 1 here 
is no such change of gender in the original. 

3 /.v., neither does it irk the sun. 
^ The sun and the gallant man. 


For from the savage rest 

He ^ holds or praise or blame of equal worth ; for no 
greatness doth he mount up in pride, but where it 
chances that it is fitting to display his valour then 
he wins praise. They who are living all work counter- 
wise. [133] 

„,,n^,H ODE XII 

fi>\ / |-p 'pgjjj of the projected thirteenth treatise.] 
La dispietata mente, che pur mira. 

The torturing memory that ever looks back to the 

time that has departed from the one side assails my 

heart : 

And the amorous longing that draws me towards 

the sweet country I have left hath on the other side 

the might of love. [6] 

Nor do I find such strength within 

As may long make defence, gentle my lady, save it 

come from thee ; wherefore if it behoves thee for 

its deliverance e'er to do emprise may it please thee 

send thy salutation to be the heartening of its power. 


May it please thee, my lady, not to fail, at this point, 

the heart that so loveth thee ; since from thee alone it 

looks for succour ; 

For good liege lord ne'er draweth rein in succouring 

vassal who cries out for him, for not him only he 

defends but his own honour. [19] 

And verily its ^ pain afflicts me hotlier 

When I reflect that thou, my lady, by love's own 

hand art painted therewithin : and even for that cause 

shouldst also thou hold it far greatlier in care ; , for 

1 The gallant man. 2 xhe heart's. 


he from whom all good must needs appear, because of 

his own image holdeth us the dearer.' [26] 

If thou shouldst speak, O sweet my hope, of setting 

a delay on that which I demand, know that I may not 

longer wait on it ; 

For at the limit of my power I stand : and this thou 

shouldst discern, whenas I have set me to explore my 

final hope ; [32] 

For to bear every load upon his back 

A man is bound, up to the mortal weight, e'er he 

make trial of his chiefest friend ; for how he shall dis- 

cover him to stand he knows not, and if it chance that 

he respond amiss to him nought is there that can cost 

so dear ; for swiftest and most bitter death he hath 

thereby. [39] 


And whom I chiefliest love art thou, and who the 

greatest gift canst give me, and in whom most my 

hope reposes ; 

For only to serve thee do I desire life ; and such 

things as make for thy honour I demand and will : 

ail else being grievous to me. [45] 

Thou hast the power to give me what no other may, 

For all the yea and nay of me within thy hand hath 

love placed ; whereat myself I magnify. The 

faith I mete to thee flows from thy tender bear- 

ing ; for whoso looks on thee, in verity knows 

from without that within there is pity. [52] 

Then let thy salutation now be launched and come 

into the heart, that waits for it, gentle my lady, e'en as 

thou hast heard : 

But know that at its entrance it is found strong 

barred by that same arrow that love discharged the 

day I was made captive ; [58] 

I As God loves us because we bear his image, so shouldst thou 
love my heart. 


Whereby the entrance is disputed to all other 

Save to the messengers of love, vcho know to open 
it by will of that same power that barred. Where- 

fore in my conflict its ^ coming were but hurt to 

me came it without escort of messengers of that 

liege lord who hath me in his power. [65] 

ii'.' Tornata 

'"My ode, needs must be brief thy journey ; for thou 

knowest that for short space now that may be brought 

about for which thou goest, [68] 


[Text of the projected fourteenth treatise.] 
Tre donne intorno al cor mi son venule. 

Three ladies have gathered round my heart and seat 

themselves without, for within sits love who 
holds seignory over my life. 

So beauteous are they and of such power that the 

mighty liege, I mean him who is in my heart, can 

scarce man himself to speak of them. [8] 

j , Each one seems grieving and dismayed 

9fAs one cast out and weary from whom all folk have 

fallen and whom nor beauty avails nor wit. Time 

was wherein, according to their speech, they were be- 

loved : now they are held in wrath and in neglect by 

all. These, so lonely, have come as to the house 

of a friend ; for they know verily that within is he of 

whom I speak. [18] 

Much doth the one of them grieve in her words, and 

on her hand supports her, like a clipped rose : her 

naked arm, column of grief. 

Feels the ray ^ falling from her face : the other hand 

1 The salutation's. 2 /,^.^ the glancing tear. 


conceals her tear-drenched locks: ungirt, un- 

sandalled, and only in herself seeming a lady. [26] 

When first love through her tattered gown 

Saw her where it were comely not to say, he, in 

pity and in wrath, of her and of her grief made 

question : ' Oh food of few,' answered a voice 

mingled with sighs, ' our nature sends us here to 

thee. I who am saddest am sister to thy mother, 

and am Righteousness : poor, as thou seest by my 

weeds and cincture.' [36] 

if. Ill 

"'When she had revealed her and made known, grief 

and shame laid hold upon my lord, and he de- 

manded who were the other two with her. 

And she who was so eager in her tears, soon 

as she understood him was kindled into hotter 

grief, saying : ' Now, on my eyes' behalf, hast thou 

not ruth ? ' [44] 

Then she began : ' As thou shouldst know, 
From its source springs the Nile, aslender stream : there, 
where the great light is shielded from the earth by the 

rush-spikes, over the virgin wave did I bring 

forth her at my side who with her fair tresses dries her 

tears. This my beauteous birth gazing on herself 

in the clear fountain brought her forth who . is more 

distant.' /.-so..-; j-^^j 


His sighs held Love a little back : then with eyes 

softened, that before were wild, he greeted the 

disconsolate kinswomen ; 

And having grasped one and the other dart he cried : 

' Uplift your necks : behold the arms which I have 

chosen ; rusted ye see them by disuse. [62] 

' Generosity and Temperance, and the others bom 

' Of our blood, go their way begging ; whereat, if this 

be loss, let the eyes weep and the mouth wail of 

men, whom it concerns, who have come under the rays 

of such a heaven : not we, who are of the eternal 

rock, for though we now be thrust at we shall 


endure, and folk will come again who shall make this 

dart abide in brightness.' [72] 


And I who mark, in divine discourse, comfort and 

dole bestowed upon such lofty exiles, count as 

my glory the banishment wreaked on me : 

And if judgment and force of destiny will have the 

world convert white flowers into dark, falling 

amongst the good is yet worthy praise. [80] 

But because the fair signal of my eyes ' 

Is reft by distance from my sight, which has set me 

in flame, light should I count that which is heavy on 

me.^ But this flame has already so consumed my 

bone and flesh that death has put his key unto my 

breast ; for which if I had fault many a moon 

has the sun revolved since it was quenched if a fault 

dies because a man repents. [90] 

'■ 1 '. Tomata 

Ode, on thy weeds let no man set his hand to look 

on that which a fair woman hides ; let the uncovered 

parts suffice, the sweet apple to all folk deny for 

which each one extends his hand. But if it chance that 

ever thou find one a friend of virtue who should pray 

thee for it, make thyself of fresh hues, and reveal 

to him the flower, that, beauteous without wakes 

longing in amorous hearts. [100] 


[Text of the projected fifteenth treatise.] 

Doglia mi reca nello core ardire. 

Grief furnishes my heart with daring for a wish that 

is truth's friend ; wherefore, ladies, if I utter words 

almost against all mankind marvel not at it, 

1 I read niaperd che degli occhi miei bel segno. 

2 I.e., all the miseries incidental to exile I should hold light in them- 

The general difficulties of the interpretation of this ode cannot be 
dealt with here. 


But recognise your base desire ; for beauty which love 

concedes to you, only for virtue was formed by 

his decree of old, against which ye offend. [10] 

You I address who are enamoured, 

For if to us virtue was given, and to you beauty, and 
to him power to make one the two, ye should not love 

at all, but hide away whatever beauty hath been 

granted you because there is no virtue, which was its 

targe. Woe's me ! what do I go about to say ? I 

say that fair disdain were with reason praised in 

woman severing beauty from herself by her dismissal. 



Man has made virtue distant from himself. Man? no ! 

but the beast that bears man's semblance ; Oh God, 
what marvel to choose to decline to slave from 
master, or from life to death ! 

Virtue is still supporting to her doer, him she 
obeys, to him acquires honour, ladies, so much that 

love stamps him of his chosen household in the 

blessed court. [31] 

Joyously she issues from the beauteous gates 

Of her mistress^ and returns : joyously she goes and 

sojourns, joyously she does her great service. Through 
the short journey preserves, adorns, increases what 

she finds : ^ to death she is so counter that she heeds 

him not. Oh, dear handmaid and pure, in heaven 

hast thou taken measurement ! ^ Thou alone givest 

mastery ; and this is proved by that thou art a posses- 

sion always of avail.* [42] 


Slave not of a master but of a base slave he makes 

himself who departs from such a hand-maid.^ See 


i; 1 I.e., the soul. 

' The natural faculties, both of mind and body. 
3 I.e., hast fixed the values of things by heavenly standards. 
* To possess them is always to be master, never slave, of the 

" Serva, corresponding to the serve translated ' slave ' in the preced- 
ing line, but here used, without contempt, of 'virtue.' 


how great the cost, reckoning one against the other 

loss, to him who wanders from her. 

This slavish master is so arrogant that the eyes 

which make light for the mind are closed for him, so 

that he needs must walk at prompting of another who 

hath his eye only on folly. [52] 

But that my speech may serve you 

I will descend from the whole to the detail, and that 

in sentences more easy, that it be less hardly under- 

stood ; for rarely underneath the veil does a dark 

saying reach the understanding ; wherefore is there 

need of open speech with you : and this I will for the 

behoof of you, and verily not me 5 that ye hold 

vile all men and in contempt, for it is likeness that 

breeds delight. [63] 


Who is a slave like him who followeth a liege in 

haste, and knoweth not whither he goeth, along the 

dolesome path ; as doth the miser hurrying after 

wealth which plays the tyrant over all. 

The miser runs, but peace more quickly flees (Oh 

blind mind that may not see thy mad desire !) with 

the sum he looks to catch up with his gold, that in- 

finitely gapes. [72^ 

Lo, when she ^ has come who levels us^ 

Tell me what hast thou wrought, blind undone 

miser? Answer me, if thou canst give other reply 

than nought. A curse upon thy cradle which 

lulled so many dreams in vain ! A curse upon thy 

wasted bread which is not wasted on the dog ! For 

at eve and morn thou hast amassed and clutched with 

either hand that which so swiftly draws away from 

thee. [84] 


As without measure it is gathered so without 

measure is it hugged. This it is that thrusts many 

into slavery : and should any defend himself it is not 
save with mighty conflict. 

1 Death. 


Death, what art thou doing, dear ^ Fortune, what art 
doing, that ye dissipate not that which is not 

spent? But, if ye did, to whom to render it? I 

know not, since such a circle rings us which compasses 

us from above. ^ [94] 

It is the blame of reason who doth not correct it. 

If she would say : ' I am captive,' ah how sorry a 

defence does the master show whom a slave over- 

comes ! Here shame is doubled if that to which I 

point be well considered. False animals, cruel to your- 

selves and others ! For ye see, going naked o'er 

hills and marshes, men before whom vice takes to 

flight : and ye keep vile mire clad. [105] 


Before the miser's face displays herself virtue, who 

invites her very foes to peace with polished matter to 

entice them to her ; but little it avails, for he ever flees 

the bait. 

When she has swung it round* with many a cry she 

flings the food towards him, so great her cars for 
him ; but he spreads not his wings at it : and if 

at last he come, when she is gone, it seems to irk him 

so [lis] 

As though he could not give save so as to make vanish 

All praise from benefit. I will have all men hear 

me : one by delaying, and one by vain dis- 

play, and one by gloomy semblance, turns the 

gift into a sale so dear as he knows only who pays such 

purchase. Would you hear whether it wounds ? So 

dismayed is he who receives that henceforth refusal 

seems not bitter to him : so does the miser mutilate 

himself and others. [126] 


Ladies, in a certain branch have I unveiled to you the 

baseness of the folk that gaze upon you, that ye may 

1 The MS. authority is conclusively in favour of buona (which must 
be understood as an appeal) ; but it is extremely difficult to believe that 
so startling and impressive a reading as the currenty^ra can have arisen 
by a copyist's error. I abandon it provisionally and with hesitation. 

2 The influence of the heavens, 
" Like a falcon's lure. 

41$ 3d' THE CONVIVIO Ode 

hold them in wrath ; but far more yet is that which is 

concealed because 'tis foul to tell you. 

In each one is a gathering of all vices because the 

world's way is that friendship blends : ^ and the love- 

some leaf of the root of good draws other good 

to it for like only pleases. [13 ] 

See how I advance to my conclusion, 

For she should not believe, who thinks that she is 

fair indeed, that she is loved by such as these. But 

if beauty amongst evil things we would enumerate, it 

might be believed, calling love the appetite of a 

beast. ^ Oh may such woman perish as dis- 

sociates her beauty from natural goodness, on such 

cause, and believes in love outside of reason's garden. 


1 As like seeks and loves like so vice draws vice. 

2 I.e., only if we call a brute appetite love, and rank beauty as an evil 
thing can a really beautiful woman be loved by such men. 


Note. — As there is but one well authenticated ode 
of Dante's in addition to those in the Vita Nuova 
and those of the Conviv'io group, it is here given for 
the sake of completeness. It is probably later than 
any of the rest, and stands apart from them. 


Amor, dacchi convien pur cVio mi doglia. 

Y^ Love, since I needs must make complaint for folk to 

near and show myself bereft of every virtue, 

Grant me the skill to wail even as I would, that the 

woe which is discharged * may be borne forth on my 

words even as I feel it. .j . ,^,^^ ■ [6] 

Thou wilt have me die, and I am satisfied, 

But who shall pardon me, if I have not skill to 
tell that which thou makest me to feel? Who 

shall believe that I am now so smitten ? But, if thou 

grant me speech in measure with my torment, see to it, 

O my liege, that e'er I die she who is guilty may not 

hear it through me ; for should she understand that 

which I feel within, pity would make less beauteous 

her beauteous face. ^ [15] 

n itoiR boi. 

I may not flee so that she come not within my 

fantasy, no more than I may flee the musing that brings 

her there. 

The mad soul, which plies its wit to its own ill, beau- 

teous and injurious as she is depicts hes, ^j^dJorges its 

own torture. \ni\\ m ,'' [21] 

Then gazes on her, and when right full 

Of the great yearning it draws through the eyes, falls 

into rage against itself for having made the fire wherein 

all dismally it bums. What argument of reason draws 

the rein on so great tempest as within me whirls? 

1 As from a bow. 


The anguish, that may not be contained within, breathes 

so through the mouth as to articulate and give, to 

boot, their merit to the eyes. [30] 

The hostile figure that remains, victorious and 

cruel, and that lords it o'er the power that wills, 

Enamoured of itself bids me to go where, in verity, 

is she herself since like to like still rushes. [36] 

Well know I that 'tis snow seeking the sun, 

But, having no more strength, I do as he who in 

another's power goes with his own feet to his place of 

death. When I draw nigh meseems that I hear 

words which cry : ' Quick ! quick ! if thou wouldst see 

him die.' Then I turn to see to whom I may 

commend me ; to such pass brought by the eyes that 

slay me, with grievous wrong. [45] 

And what, so wounded, I become, O Love, thou 

knowest to relate, not I, thou who dost stay to look 

on lifeless me : 

And though the soul thereafter come again to the 
heart, nescience and oblivion have been her com- 

rades whilst she was away. [51] 

When I arise again and look upon the wound 

Which undid me when I was struck, I may not so 

assure myself but that I tremble all for fear ; and 

my discoloured face declares what was the thunder bolt 

that leaped upon me ; for though 'twas a sweet smile 

that launched it ^ long time thereafter it ^ abides 

darkened, in that the spirit cannot trust itself. [60] 

Thus hast thou dealt with me, C) Love, amongst the 
alps, in that river's vale on whose banks thou 

ever hast been strong upon me. 

1 The bolt. 2 My face. 


Here living or dead at thy will thou handiest me in 

virtue of that fierce light that makes a thunder-crash- 

ing path for death. [66] 

Woe's me ! no ladies here, nor folk of skill ^ 

Can I perceive, whom it may irk of my woe. If she 

heed it not ne'er do I hope for succour from an- 

other : and she, banned from thy court, my 

liege, marks not thine arrow's stroke : such mail of 

pride hath she forged for her breast, that every shaft 

there breaks its point and course, for her armed 

heart by nought is bitten. [75] 


Oh mountain song of mine, thou goest on thy 
way, mayhap to see my city Florence who bars 

me out from her, void of love and stripped of 

pity. If thou enter in, go crying : ' Now no longer 

can my maker war upon thee here ; there whence I come 

clips him a chain such that should thy cruelty give 

way he has no longer freedom to return.' 

I Skill in love. 


The date of the Convivio and its relation to the De 
Vulgari Eloquentia and the De Monarchia. 

Dante contrasts the Convivio, as a work 
composed after he had passed the threshold of 
'manhood' [gioventute), Vf'ith. the Vita Nuova 
as written before he had crossed it (I. i. : 
125-127); and he regarded 'manhood' as 
lasting from twenty-five to forty-five (IV. 24 : 
22-37). But since Beatrice ^died in 1290, 
Dante's twenty-fifth year, the Fita Nuova as a 
whole cannot have been written in the poet's 
• adolescence,' before he entered ' manhood.' 
The passage, then, can only indicate that the 
range of emotion represented by the poems of 
the Vita Nuova belongs to the poet's ' adoles- 
cence,' and that with which he desires to connect 
the canzoni, or odes, to his early ' manhood.' 

As to the prose work itself we have more 
precise indications. When the first treatise was 
written Dante had long been an exile and had 
wandered over almost every region of Italy 
(I. 3 : 20-33). This places us at least some 
years later than 1302. 

The first treatise refers forward to the fourth 

(I. I : 123) ; the second treatise presupposes the 

first (II. I : 14-16), and refers forward to the 

third (II. 16: 23, 94) ; the third refers back 



to the second (III. i : 1-4) and forward to 
the fourth (III. 7 : I45 ; 13 : 37), while both 
second and third directly carry forward a part of 
the promise and programme of the first (I. i : 
127-132. Compare I. 2: 1 14-127). The 
fourth treatise three times refers back to the 
third (ly. 20: 33; 23: 141; 30: 52). It 
departs in one respect from the programme 
announced as general in the second treatise 
(compare IV. i : 83-92 with II. i : 1 19-124). 
At least three of the unwritten treatises were 
planned, in more or less detail, when the exist- 
ing books were written (see note on p. 7 f.). 
Back-references generally specify the chapter, 
tore-references never. 

Unless definite proof can be brought to the 
contrary, therefore, we have a right to suppose 
that the four treatises of the Conv'wio were 
written in the order in which we have them, 
and that the whole scheme of the book, as 
projected in fifteen treatises (compare I. i : loi- 
105), was already definitely worked out in the 
author's mind (though subject to modification in 
detail) when he began to write the first treatise. 

The indications of date in the fourth treatise 
are fairly precise. Rudolf, Adolf and Albert 
have successively become emperors since 
Frederick II., but the election of Henry VII. 
in November 1308 [Uart de verifier les dates) 
has not yet taken place (IV. 3 : 38-43) ; 
whereas it is implied that Gherardo da Cammino, 
who died in March 1 306 (Toynbee), is no longer 
living (IV. 14: ri4-i23). If we may infer from 
the passage cited above that Albert is already dead 
we shall be carried past May i, 1308 (^L'art de 


verifier les dates^, and shall have a very precise 
date ; but though this seems the natural reading 
of the passage it is hardly safe to lay stress on it. 
But further, a comparison of IV. 6: i8o fF. 
with De Vulgari Eloqucnt'ta, I. I2; 36-39 
suggests, though it does not prove, that Azzo of 
Este was already dead,^ which would take us 
past the beginning of 1308. 

Our conclusion then is that the four treatises 
of the Convivio were begun a considerable 
time (probably several years) after 1302, and 
were finished before November 1308, and 
that the fourth treatise was begun certainly 
after March 1306, and probably after the be- 
ginning of 1308. 

The idea irresistibly suggests itself that the 
election of Henry was at least one of the causes 
that diverted Dante's mind from the completion of 
the Convivio ; and we shall be disposed to regard 
the whole design and execution of the fragment 
we possess as belonging essentially to the year 
1308 or the immediately preceding years. 

The close relation of the Convivio in 
general, and of the first treatise in particular, 
to the De Fu/gari Eloquentia is obvious. Both 
works deal with the Odes ; and in both Dante 
regards these compositions with evident pride, 
as conferring on him his chief title to literary 
fame. In both his thoughts are engaged on the 
relations between Latin and the vernaculars, 
though his views, or at anyrate the expression 
of them, do not completely agree in the two 
works. Compare De Vulgari E/oquenfia, I. i : 
34-41, with Convivio I. 5 • 45 ^91' • 
^ See below p. 423, and note. 


In the absence of clear proof to the contrary 
we are justified in assuming that these two works 
(including the second as well as the first book of 
the De f^u/gari Eloquentia^ belong to the same 
period of Dante's life, as they certainly move in 
the same circle of ideas and interests, and take 
the same view of the general scope of verna- 
cular poetry. Internal evidence confirms this 
impression. In the De Fulgari Eloquentta (I. 
12 : 36-39) Frederick II., King of Sicily (not 
the Emperor Frederick II.) ; Charles II. of 
Naples ; the Marquis John (evidently of Mon- 
ferrato) and the Marquis Azzo (evidently ot 
Ferrara) are spoken of as though still living. 
They died respectively in 1343, May 1309, 
January 1305, and January 1308 ^ i^Uart de 
•verifier les dates'). On the other hand, Dante 
is already in exile (I. 6 : 17-23). This gives 
us a range from the beginning of 1302 to the 
end of 1304, for the composition of the De 
l^ulgari Eloquentta, and when we reflect on the 
political agitations that absorbed Dante's thoughts 
in the early period of his exile we shall be in- 
clined to place the composition of the work in 
■1304 rather than earlier. 
|- Against this conclusion (which I think we 
f must accept) two objections may be urged. 
I Villani (IX. 106) and Boccaccio {Vita di 
y.Dante) both conjecture that the composition of 

* In an analagous passage in the Conviwo (IV. 6 : 
180 ff.) Frederick and Charles still figure, whereas John 
and Azzo have disappeared. This we have taken (see 
p. 422, above) as another indication that the fourth 
treatise of the Convi'vio was written after the beginning 
of 1308. 


the De Fulgari Eloquentia was, or may have 
been, interrupted by the poet's death. But as 
they speak quite generally, and seem to have no 
other data to go on than the fragmentary state of 
the work, we need not attach any special 
importance to their suggestion. It is noteworthy 
that Villani gives the same reason, with greater 
confidence, for the unfinished state of the 
Coni)ivio ; and this we certainly cannot accept. 
Moreover, the passage of Villani itself appears 
not to be above suspicion. 

A more formidable difficulty is presented by 
a passage in the Conviino (I. 5 : 66-69) in 
which Dante speaks of a work which *■ I intend to 
'write, God granting, on the vernacular speech,' 
and in which he promises to deal with a subject 
actually handled in the De Vulgari Eloquentia 
as we have it (I. 9 : SO-93). To this we can 
only say that whereas the passage would cer- 
tainly warrant us in assuming the priority of 
the first book of the Convivio to the first book of 
the De Fulgari Eloquentia, in the absence of 
evidence to the contrary, it does not warrant us 
in ignoring the clear proof that the first book 
of the De Fulgari Eloquentia was written before 
the beginning of 1305, and the very strong pre- 
sjumption that the Convivio was not completed 
till the middle or towards the end of 1308 ; for 
if Dante took one work in hand before he had 
completed the other (and this he must in any 
case have done), and intended to complete the 
Convivio before he resumed the De Fulgari 
Eloquentia he might well refer to the latter 
(even when speaking of the parts already 
written) as a future work. But if this seems 


straining a point, the reader may suppose that the 
Convivio was begun first of the two, without 
supposing that it is prior as a whole ; but in that 
case he will have difficulty in finding time for 
the long wanderings mentioned in I. 3 : 20-33. 

The general conclusion seems safe that the 
De Fulgari Eloquentia may be dated 1304, and 
the Convivio 1308, allowing the possibility in 
the former case that the work may have over- 
flowed into the immediately following years, 
and in the latter case that it may have been 
begun in the years immediately preceding. 

It remains to examine the relation of the 
Convivio to the De Monarchia. There are 
two considerations, one of a general and one of 
a special nature, which give strong support to 
the belief that the De Monarchia is later than 
the Convivio. 

Both works alike deal with the Roman 
empire, and in a general way it might be 
maintained with equal show of justice that 
Chapters IV. and V. of the fourth treatise of 
the Convivio are a popular summary of the 
treatment of the empire in Book II. of the 
De Monarchia^ or that they are a preliminary 
sketch of it. But we note that the specific 
relations of Church and State, which form the 
real subject of the De Monarchia^ are ignored in 
the Convivio. In place of them we find a short 
passage on the relations of philosophy to the 
office of government (IV. 6: 154-190). Indeed, 
though, as we shall see (p. 430), that Dante is 
full of recognition of the Church as the organ of 
spiritual truth, he does not seem in any way at 
all to take count of her as a governing institution. 


Even in the beautiful passage (IV. 4: 64) in 
which he likens the whole human civility to a 
' religious order ' (re/igione) he seems to be think- 
ing rather of the ideal philosophical emperor than 
of the pope as the 'superior.' Again the doctrine 
of revelation is never in any way worked out 
in the Convivio. The 'contemplative life' is 
looked upon throughout rather from the point of 
view of philosophy than of revelation. It is 
therefore impossible not to feel that the De 
Monarch'ta represents a more developed scheme 
and one far more closely connected with that of 
the Commedia than we find in the Convhno. 
After making all allowances for the differences 
of treatment natural in a popular and in a 
scholarly work, we have still to admit that if 
the Convivio were later than the De Monorchia 
it would constitute a bewildering parenthesis be- 
tween this latter and the Commedia^ and would 
indicate a marked relapse from maturity into 
comparative crudity. 

To this general argument we may add a 
specific one of great weight. In the fourth 
treatise of the Convivio Dante criticises at great 
length and with unsparing severity that portion 
of the Emperor Frederick's definition of nobility 
which makes ' ancient wealth ' one of its essential 
factors. And he defends himself from the 
charge of irreverence towards the empire, in 
thus disputing the emperor's definition, by 
declaring that it is not part of the imperial 
office (but rather, as he implies, a part of the 
office of the philosopher) to define nobility. He 
also attempts to show that a sentiment of Aris- 
totle's which might, quite indirectly, be brought 


to the support of the opinion he attacks, does 
not really bear the construction put upon it by 
his imaginary opponent [Conviv'io, IV. 3 sqq.^ 
especially 9 : 160-179). Now the fact is that 
the incriminated part of Frederick's definition is 
really due to no other than Aristotle himself, 
who defines nobility as ' ancient wealth and 
virtue' {^Politics, IV. viii. 9). Dante, then, 
must have seen the utter futility of his attempt 
to make out that he is only dealing with the 
emperor in his unofficial capacity and with an 
indirect and erroneous deduction from Aristotle, 
had the passage in Aristotle been in his mind. 
It is clear, then, that he did not know it, or had 
forgotten it, when he wrote the fourth treatise of 
the Convivio. But in the De Monarchia (II. 
3 : 15-17), Dante expressly quotes this passage 
from Aristotle, and works out his main thesis ab 
to the nobility of the Roman people in connection 
with it, if not in direct dependence on it. Is it 
possible that after that he could so completely 
have forgotten it as to be able to write as he has 
done in the Convivio ? 

We are driven to the conclusion therefore 
that internal evidence points strongly to the 
priority of the Convivio to the De Monarchia. 
With the general difficulties involved in assigning 
this (or indeed any other) date to the De Mon- 
archia we cannot now deal. 



On Dante^s ' second love ' and the relation of the 
Convivio to the Vita Nuova and the Commedia. 

The Convivio is the monument of Dante's 
♦second love' (III. i : 2), and we can liave 
no difficulty in forming a clear conception of its 
object. Dante's ' second love ' was for ivisdom, 
that is to say the 'Wisdom of God,' spoken of 
in the Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon. 
The wisdom that Dante loved was * the bright- 
ness of the eternal light, the spotless mirror of 
the majesty of God' (III. 15: 54, 55. See 
Wisdom, VII. 26). Solomon declared of her 
that God began all creation in company with 
her, and exclaimed in her person : ' When he 
prepared the heavens, I was there,' etc. (Con- 
vivio, III. 15 : 155 ff. ; Proverbs, VIII. 27 
fF.). She is therefore the Logos of the proem 
of the Gospel of John (III. 14: 62-64); ^^^ 
she is expressly identified with the incarnate 
Deity. ' Oh worse than dead, who flee from 
her friendship ! Open your eyes and see that 
before ye were she loved you, preparing and 
ordaining your progress ; and after ye were 
made she came to you in your likeness, to guide 
you aright' (III. 15: 178-184). And again, 
' Oh, ineffable and incomprehensible wisdom of 
God, which against thy coming into Syria didst 
make so great preparation beforehand in heaven 
above and here in Italy ' (IV. 5 : 69-72). 

Ultimately, then, Dante's second love is for 
wisdom as a hypostasis in the Trinity. But 
the transition is easy to wisdom as an attribute of 


Deity, not identified with Deity itself. Thus 
Dante says of her that her ' proper abode is in 
the most secret place of the divine mind' (IV, 
30 : 66-68), or that she is ' the spouse of 
the Emperor of heaven,' and * not only spouse, 
but sister and most beloved daughter' (III. 
12: 1 1 5-1 18). And the wisdom that thus 
exists primarily in the Creator exists in a 
secondary way in created intelligences, angelic 
and human (III. 13 : 1-26). The love of her 
is philosophy, and therefore Dante may say 
of his ' second love ' that the lady of his 
adoration * was the daughter of God, the 
queen of all that is, the most noble and most 
beauteous Philosophy ' (II. 13: 71-73). And 
finally, since the object of any emotion is often 
called by the name of that emotion itself, the 
subjects which philosophy (love of wisdom) 
studies may themselves bear the name of philo- 
sophy, and so the sciences, one and all, are a 
part of the object of Dante's love, inasmuch as 
they are parts of his lady (III. 11 : 95-102, 
154-186). And amongst the sciences the 
noblest and surest place is taken by theology, 
which * suffers no strife of opinions or of sophis- 
tical arguments,' and is therefore likened to 
the tranquil empyrean heaven (II. 15: 165- 

Such being the lady of Dante's * second love,* 
it is clear that she can in no sense be the rival of 
theology, and since she supersedes Beatrice in 
Dante's affections (II. 16: 50-58, and the 
second treatise generally), Beatrice cannot be 
taken as the symbol of theology in the scheme 
of the Convivio ; nor indeed is there any in- 


dication whatever in this work that Beatrice 
stands, as yet, for anything but the Florentine 
maiden * who lives in heaven with the angels, 
and on earth with my soul ' (IL 2 : 6-8). 

Nor is there any note of hesitation or doubt in 
Dante's devotion to the Church. She is the 
' spouse and secretary ' of God (II. 6 : 33), she 
is holy Church 'who cannot utter falsehood' (II. 
4 : 32). Our minds are incapable of grasping the 
highest truths unless aided by revelation (II. 6 : 
1-20; III. 7: 161, 162, etc.). TheChristian 
faith 'cannot lie' (IV. 15 : 49, 50, etc.), and 
has supreme authority, above that of philosophers 
and poets (IV. 15 : 90-96, etc.). 

It is obvious from these passages, and many 
others that might be added to them, that the 
Convivio is not in any way the record (as has 
been maintained) of a period during which 
Dante exalted human reason or secular philo- 
sophy to the same level of authority as reve- 
lation, or treated theology with disrespect. 
What he records in the Convivio is a period in 
his life during which his love of study became 
his dominating passion, partially eclipsing the 
memory of Beatrice. But the wisdom he loved, 
so far from leading him away from theology 
led him to it, for theology was the most 
glorious of the sciences, which constituted the 
body of wisdom, as love constituted her soul 
(compare III. 11 : 129-136 with the passages 
cited above). 

Clearly Dante's dominating motive in writing 
the Convivio was a passion for the study and the 
promulgation of philosophic truth (see I. i, 


the concluding passage of chap, xiii., and many 
other passages throughout the work) ; but he 
tells us very distinctly that he was also moved 
by the desire to glorify the Italian language (I. 
[O ff.) ; and by the desire to avert from himself 
the * infamy of having yielded to so great a 
passion ' as the reader of his Odes would suppose 
to have had possession of him. And the way 
in which he intends to avert this ' infamy ' is by 
allegorising all the odes of passion, without dis- 
tinction (I. 2 : 120-123 ; II. 16: 98-103 ; III. 
I : I sqq.y 77 sqq. ; IV. i : 92-99, etc.). This 
intention may have been only incidental to the 
real purpose, but it was evidently essential and in- 
tegral to the method and scheme of the Convivio. 
We have to ask, then, whether we can accept 
all the love poems on which Dante comments, 
or promises to comment, in the Convivio as 
having really been addressed in the first instance 
to philosophy. It is clear that we cannot. The 
seventh treatise was to be a comment on Ode VI. 
(compare IV. 26: 64-67, note ; and further 
III. 10: 41, note), and it is impossible for a 
moment to believe that this poem relates to 
anything but earthly passion. Dante's con- 
fession to Forese [Purgatorio, XXIII. 115- 
119) and his desire to dissociate himself from 
the moral impression produced by his Odes 
are a sufficient comment on this poem and 
its companions, even if for the moment we 
leave aside the evidence of Cantos XXX. and 
XXXI. of the Purgatorio, Some of the Con- 
vivio cycle of odes commemorated phases of 
passion from which the author, in the lofty sense 
of his mission, now desired to dissociate himself. 


Examining the Odes in detail, we can have little 
doubt that VI., VII., VIII. and IX, were poems 
of earthly love inspired by a woman of whom 
we have no other knowledge; and that II., IV. 
and V. are hymns of love genuinely addressed to 
philosophy; whereas X. and XII. seem to con- 
nect themselves with Beatrice ; and I. irresistibly 
carries us to the Lady of the Window of the 
Fita Nuova, with whom indeed Dante himself 
directly connects it (II. 2 : 1-12). 

Now we cannot accept Dante's asseveration 
that the Lady of the Window was no other than 
philosophy (see the citations above, and especially 
II. 16: 98-103), and that the ode Foi che 
intendendo il terzo del movete, which stands at the 
head of the second treatise, was from the first 
allegorical. We might hesitate to disbelieve 
his express statement had we not seen 
that it is merely incidental to his general purpose 
of allegorising all his odes. As it is, this 
particular bit of allegorising must stand or 
fall with the whole scheme — that is to say, it 
must fall with it. But the inconsistencies and 
frigidities to which Dante is driven in alle- 
gorising this ode are in themselves sufficiently 
convincing. In the Fita Nuova the Lady of 
the Window first appears to Dante *a certain 
space ' after the first anniversary of Beatrice's 
death (§36: i), and then tries his constancy 
during < certain days' (§40: 13), after which 
the memory of Beatrice victoriously reasserts 
itself, and the poet, writing after the close of 
the whole episode, pronounces the thought of 
this lady as * gentle in so far as it discoursed of 
a gentle lady, but in other respects most base ' 


(§ 39- 30"32)-^ Further he declared that 
the 'heart' (in Sonnet XXII.) which took 
part for the Lady of the Window signifies 
'appetite.' In the Convivio the lady (now 
identified with my lady philosophy) first appears 
to Dante considerably more than three years 
after Beatrice's death ^ (II. 2: 1-6), it is 
some thirty months after this before he has 
sufficiently overcome the first difficulties of study 
to feel the full power of his enaraourment (II. 
13: 45-52), he does not purpose to speak any 
more of Beatrice in this whole work (II. 9 : 
53-55), he emphatically warns his reader against 
taking 'heart' (in Ode I.) to mean any ' special 
part of the soul or body' (II. 7: 21 f.), 

^ We still possess the poem in which Dante closed and 
sealed this episode of the Lady of the Window. It is 
Sonnet XLII, in Moore's edition, and it runs : 

Ye words of mine already in the world who had 

your birth after that I began to write, anent that 

lady in whom I went astray, Te tuho by understand- 

ing mo-ve the third hea-ven ; 

Go your ways to her, for well ye know her, so 

weeping as that she may hear your wailings. Say to 

her: ' We are thine ; and so henceforth more than 

our number never look to see.' 

Abide not with her, for love is not there ; but 

wander round in mourning habit after the fashion 

of your ancient sisters. * 

Whenso ye find a worthy lady fling yourselves 

at her feet, in humbleness, and say : ' To thee we 

are bounden to do honour.* 

2 Lubin in Dante e git Astronomi Italiani, Trieste, 1895, 
has proved beyond all possibility of dispute that the period 
of Venus referred to must be taken as 583 days and 
odd hours. .^.;, ,. 

* The poems concerning the lost Beatrice. ' 1 '"'" 


and so far from being ashamed of his new 
love as ' most base,' he frankly exalts it over 
his first love (for Beatrice), and declares 
that ' a man ought not, because of a greater 
friend, to forget the services received from the 
lesser ; but if it really behoves him to follow the 
one and to leave the other, when he follows the 
better the other is not to be abandoned without 
some fitting lamentation.' (II. i6 : 52-57). 

In spite of Dante's declaration, then, that he 
does not intend the Convivio in any way to 
derogate from the Fita Nuova (I. i : 1 14, 1 15), 
we must believe that it was only by a tour de 
jorce that he could attempt to harmonise the 
scheme of the one work with that of the other, 
and that we shall be safer in basing our judgment 
as to the Lady of the Window and the ode that 
concerns her upon the internal evidence of the 
Vita Nuova and the ode itself, than upon the 
express assertions, avowedly made with a purpose, 
of the Convivio. 

We have therefore reached the conclusion 
that Dante desired to dissociate himself from 
the implications of some of his poems, which 
implications he regarded as infamous, that he 
intended to effect his purpose by treating all his 
love poems as allegorical, and that in pursuance 
of this purpose he actually explained Ode I. in 
a manner inconsistent with the narrative of the 
Fita Nuova and with the facts. 

But the scheme (alien surely from Dante's 
sincerity of character) was never completely 
carried out. Henry's election and expedition, 
as we have seen reason to believe, interrupted 
the progress of the Convivio and gave rise first 


to the De Monarch'ia and then to the Political 
Letters. After Henry's fall the world had 
changed for Dante. His thoughts had been 
matured, his whole nature had passed through 
the fire, his life thought had deepened from that 
of the Convivio to that of the Comed!y. 

And if the substance of the Convivlo had 
become inadequate its form and scheme had 
become impossible. Dante had come to see 
that if there is any aspect of our past lives that 
is at war with our present lives and aspirations 
we must dissociate ourselves from it, not by 
allegorising it away, but by purgatorially living 
ourselves out of it, and into its opposite, by 
confession and by penitence. At the same time 
he perceived that philosophy, so far from leading 
him away from Beatrice, had been leading him 
back to her. It was in sin that he had / 
wandered from her, it was in love of wisdom 
that he came back to her. My lady philo- 
sophy, no longer the rival of Beatrice, was 
resolved into Beatrice's emissary, Virgil, and 
Beatrice herself; the superseded scheme of 
symbolism of the Convivio, was abandoned ; the 
poet purged himself from its taint of insincerity ; 
and, after his passage through Purgatory, the 
supreme confession and the agony of penitence 
with which he met his outraged ideal in the 
earthly Paradise give us his final comment on the 
aberrations he had once thought to explain 
away — final save for the light that streams upon 
the whole question of sin, repentance and for- 
giveness from the Paradiso} 

^ The extreme conciseness of treatment which it has 
been necessary here to observe may be supplemented by a 



The Astronomy of the Convivio. 

Dante follows the Ptolemaic system of astro- 
nomy, a good account of which will be found 
in Young's General Astronomy (Ginn & Co., 
1900), § 500 sqq. ; but he only deals with the 
simplest elements of the system and avoids all 
such points as the eccentricities of the planetary 
orbits, corresponding to the ellipttcities of orbits 
of modern astronomy. 

The difficulty which students find in under- 
standing the astronomical passages in Dante is 
due to ignorance of astronomy in general, not to 
ignorance of the Ptolemaic system, which is 
extremely simple, and easy to connect directly 
with the observed phenomena of the heavens. 
Dante's expositions are of admirable lucidity, 
and anyone who has watched the actual doings 
of the stars, the sun and moon, and the planets, 
will understand them without difficulty. Those 
who are only acquainted with representations of 
the solar system in books or orreries may find 
some difficulty in adjusting their minds to a 
system that always keeps in direct touch with 
the appearance of the heavens, as really seen 

study of Witte's essay on 'Dante's Trilogy' (the classical 
exposition of the views I am combatting) and my 
Appendix to it, in Essays on Dante, by Karl Witte. 
Duckworth & Co., 1898. See also notes on IV. i : 
62-65, and Purgatorio, XXXIII. 85-99. ^•"' * brief 
statement of the whole case see Gardner's Dante Primer, 
pp. 53.64. 


from the earth ; but the following hints may be 
found useful.^ 

3}. The starry heaven presents the appearance of 
* solid sphere revolving round fixed poles (one 
of which is visible to us) from east to west. 
This appearance was taken by the ancients as 
a fact. Between midnight and midnight, i.e., 
during one diurnal revolution of the sun round 
the earth, any given star that has been observed 
will be found to have completed something more 
than a full revolution, and consequently to be 
further west than it was twenty-four hours ago. 
That is to say, the stars revolve faster than the 
sun, and constantly overtake him in their journey 
from east to west. In the course of a year the 
whole starry heaven has thus overtaken and 
passed the sun, so that the stars are once more 
in the same relative positions with respect to 

Moreover, the sun rises due east at the spring 
equinox, and then till the summer solstice rises 
further and further north till he is about 23^° 
north of the equator, then a little further south 
every day, till at the autumn equinox he is on 
the equator and rises due east again, and by 
the winter solstice is 23^° south of the equator ; 
after which he creeps north again. 

It will be seen, then, that in the course of 

* If the reader takes any ordinary representation of the 
solar system and (ignoring the Asteroids, Neptune and 
Uranus) exchanges the places of the sun and the earth (the 
moon accompanying the earth), he will get Dante's 
conception of the succession of the ' seven planets ' as they 
follow each other outward from the fixed earth at the 
centre, viz., the moon, Mercury, Venus, the sun, Mars, 
Jupiter, Saturn. Beyond these were the fixed stars. 


a year the sun both lags behind the stars till 
they have all passed him, and also moves north 
and south within a space of 23^^° on each side 
of the equator ; that is to say, he works back 
through the stars, tracing on the starry heavens 
a great circle at an angle of 23!^° with the 
equator, and cutting the equator at two points. 

t N 


To account for this, the ancients supposed 
that inside the sphere of the stars was another 
sphere, the axes of which were fixed (not 
mechanically, as suggested by the figure) in two 
points of the starry sphere 23^° distant from the 
poles, and that the sun was fixed on the equator 
of this inner sphere. 


Now let the reader suppose himself to be 
standing somewhere on the surface of the earth, 
in the northern hemisphere, at the centre of the 
two spheres in the figure. If the outer sphere 
revolved, carrying the inner sphere (otherwise 
motionless) with it, he would see the sun moving 
round once in every twenty- four (sidereal) hours 
clockwise. If on the other hand the outer 
sphere were to cease revolving and the inner 
sphere were to revolve counter-clockwise once 
in a year, he would see the sun trace a circle on 
the starry sphere, moving back from west to 
east at its most northern point 23^° above the 
starry equator and at its most southern point 
23^° below it. If both of these motions are 
going on at once, both effects will follow. 
That is to say, the sun will be carried round 
every day from east to west with the stars, but 
will at the same time lag behind them and also 
creep north or south according to the season of 
the year. He will, in fact, trace the spiral 
which has been described above as the course 
he actually appears to take. The resolution of 
this spiral into a combination of two circles was 
the triumph of ancient astronomy, and it still 
holds its place in modern astronomy, the two 
circles being now regarded as the motion of the 
earth round her own axis and her motion round 
the sun. 

The motion of the moon is like that of the 
sun, only that her ' proper ' orbit from west to 
east is completed in a month instead of a year. 
A closer inner sphere, therefore, was supposed, 
which sympathetically obeyed the motion of the 
starry sphere and had its oblique axis fixed (not 



mechanically) in it, but was unaffected by the 
motion of the sun's ' proper ' sphere. On its 
equator the moon was fixed. 

The motion of the planets (other than the 
sun and moon, which are also regarded as planets 

by the ancients) is more complicated. On the 
whole, they travel through the stars, obliquely to 
the equator, from west to east, like the sun and 
moon, each having its own period of ' proper ' 
revolution. But they do not travel steadily, 
and sometimes they actually travel westward 
through the stars for a time. To explain this 


the ancients introduced, in the case of these 
planets, a third circular motion. The planet 
(Venus, for instance) was not supposed to be 
fixed (like the sun) on the equator of its proper 
sphere, but another smaller sphere, the centre of 
which would lie on the equator of that sphere, 
was supposed to be thrust into its side, and to 
revolve round the centre which the greater sphere 
was itself carrying round the earth from west 
to east.^ Here the reader's modern conception 
of the solar system may help his imagination. 
Let him suppose himself to be observing our 
moon from the sun, in the centre of the 
system. Further, let him suppose the distance 
of the moon from the earth to be immensely 
increased, and the motion of the earth so 
slowed down that the movement of the 
moon round the earth is more rapid than that 
of the earth round the sun, and lastly let him 
suppose the earth to shrink till it becomes a 
mere ideal point circling round the sun while 
the moon circles round it. He will see that 
under these conditions the moon would appear to 
take a looped course through the stars, prevail- 
ingly from west to east, but occasionally doubling 
back from east to west. This is exactly analogous 
to the course of a planet as seen from the earth, and 
explained in terms of the Ptolemaic mechanism. 
The three circles, of the starry sphere, the 
planet's proper sphere, and the planet's epicycle 
or inserted sphere, correspond to the three circles 
of the earth's revolution on her axis, her re- 
volution round the sun, and the planet's revolution 

' The whole, of course, being carried round by the 
daily motion of the whole heavens. 


round the sun, as conceived by modern astronomy. 
Again, the great triumph of resolving the ex- 
tremely complex apparent motion of the planet 
into a combination of three circles was won by 
the ancients and is still enjoyed by the modern 

Finally, Hipparchus^ observed the pheno- 
menon now known as the precession of the 
equinoxes, and explained by modern astronomy as 
due to a slow top-like motion of the earth's axis. 
Its effect on the appearance of the heavens is to 
make a slow change in the pole of the daily 
rotation of the starry heavens. Our pole star 
was not always, and will not always be, so near 
the pole as it now is. This was explained by 
the ancients by supposing that the starry sphere 
itself had its poles obliquely fixed (not mechanic- 
ally) in a sphere outside itself, on which there 
is no heavenly body, just as the poles of the 
proper spheres of the planets were fixed in the 
starry sphere. It was this outmost sphere to 
which the daily rotation of the whole heavens 
from east to west was due. The starry sphere 
had a slow ' proper ' motion from west to east 
(one degree in a hundred years, Dante thought), 
which was communicated, like that of the 
Primum mobile, or outmost sphere, to all the 
inner spheres. The ♦ proper ' motions of the 
other spheres were strictly ' proper ' ; that is, 
they not only originated in them but were not 
communicated by them to any of the lower 
spheres within them. 

^ Ptolemy long had the credit of it. See Con-vi'vio, II. 
3 • 36 sqq- 


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In preparing this translation for the Temple 
Classics I have generally followed the text of 
Dr. Moore's Oxford Dante ; but I have some- 
times preferred that of Pederzini's Variorum 
edition, (Modena, 1831), or have adopted a 
manuscript-reading which it indicates. On 
these matters, and on significant changes of 
punctuation, I have given such information in 
the notes as I thought might be useful in a 
popular work, but not in a uniform or systematic 
manner. But in the few cases in which I have 
ventured upon actual emendations of the MS. text, 
on my own authority, I have of course invariably 
given notice of them in the notes. Square 
brackets in the text indicate insertions. 

Both translation and notes are for the most 
part based on independent study, but I have 
found Pederzini's edition, cited above, of the 
highest value in difficult passages. Kannegiesser's 
German translation (Leipzig, 1B56) I have 
found useful as a check ; but, though it is in 
general a singularly careful and scholarly piece of 
work, it follows Pederzini in cases of difficulty 
so closely as to deprive it of independent value 
in passages of doubtful interpretation. 

When my translation was completed I com- 
pared it throughout with Miss Hillard's {The 
Banquet, Kegan Paul, 1889). I have felt 
compelled in very many passages to adhere to 
a translation at variance with hers, as will be 



obvious to anyone who compares the two 
versions ; but the number of passages in which 
her translation enabled me to detect and avoid 
mistakes in my own can of course be known only 
to myself; and I wish to be allowed (if I may 
do it without impertinence) to express my thanks 
to her, together with my high admiration of the 
sustained brilliance of her work from the literary 
point of view. 

To Mr. Toynbee's Dante Dictionary and 
Studies my obligations are extensive. Many of 
them are acknowledged in detail. 

My debt to Dr. Moore's first series of Studies 
will be understood by those, but by those only, 
who have attempted some work similar to that 
involved in annotating the Convivio. I have 
not always agreed with him in my identification 
of Dante's references to Aristotle, and I have 
often drawn independent conclusions from the 
material he has gathered ; but my work (such 
as it is) would have been almost impossible, 
within the limits of time at my disposal, had I 
not been able to take his patient researches as 
a starting-point. 

To Mr. Edmund Gardner I owe a very 
special personal debt indicated in connection 
with the translation of the odes. 

Philip H. Wicksteed. 

List of Scholastic Terms explained In the Notes 


Substance and accident 

Universals .... 

Cause (final, efficient, etc.) . 

Action and passion, agent and patient 


Form and material 

Act and potentiality 

Privation . 


Common sense and common sensibles 









1 04 
















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